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The Baby's Advantage

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Neuroblastomas most often affect children under 10, but a new study in JAMA shows that the younger a child is, the higher the chances of survival, reports HealthDay's Serena Gordon. That may be because, the researchers found, teens and young adults with neuroblastoma are more likely to have a newly discovered genetic mutation in the ATRX gene. None of the infants the researchers studied had the mutation, while 17 percent of the kids under 12, and 100 percent of the teens and young adults studied did have it. "In infants, neuroblastoma is often treatable. In older patients, it tends to be more clinically aggressive," study co-author Alberto Pappo, of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, tells Gordon. "About 90 percent of neuroblastomas happen in children less than 10 years old. When it happens in teens and young adults, they usually tend to have poorer clinical outcomes. They relapse over and over again. They can survive for many years with the disease, but they ultimately die of the disease."

The ATRX discovery is still preliminary, and the researchers don't yet know how it affects survival in older neuroblastoma patients. "Finding will likely spur more research, and could potentially be used to develop a screening test to determine who might have more (or less) aggressive cancer," Gordon writes.

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