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Predisposition Clinics

Some 10,000 children to 12,000 children in the US are diagnosed each year with cancer, and a portion of these kids have genetic mutations that place them at risk of developing tumors, the Wall Street Journal reports. It adds that new cancer predisposition clinics are opening to facilitate the management of hereditary pediatric cancer cases.

The clinics treat kids with cancer and help their families undergo genetic testing — both of the affected child and other family members — to see whether others are at risk and if the disease-linked mutation was inherited from a parent or arose spontaneously in a sperm or egg cell. They also offer follow-up care to watch for the development of later tumors. "The assumption is it would improve survival," John Maris, a pediatric oncologist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, which has a cancer predisposition program, tells the Journal.

For instance, the Journal notes that Noah Arnold, who developed tumors on his kidneys by the age of 1, underwent genetic testing at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to find that he has a mutation in his Dicer1 gene. His older sister was then also tested and found to have the same mutation. Both are patients at St. Jude's cancer predisposition clinic and undergo regular ultrasound screenings to look for tumors. While they might not develop cancer, their genetic counselor Emily Quinn tells the WSJ that, if they do, "if we catch it early, the kids have much better outcomes than if we catch it later."