Tuesday 2 December 2008
Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research have made significant progress in pinpointing two new risk factors associated with the most common childhood kidney cancer, known as Wilms tumour.
The research published in Clinical Cancer Research today found that specific genetic changes in certain cells may cause childhood kidney cancer.
Lead scientist, Dr Chris Jones at The Institute of Cancer Research says:
“This discovery is a significant step forward and our findings will help locate those who are most at risk and hopefully lead to earlier diagnosis and better monitoring for patients.”
The work is the first to study the entire genome (collection of genes that a person has) within these clusters of cells by analysing ‘DNA copy number changes’.
“Around one per cent of children are born with clusters of embryonic cells in their kidneys left over from growing in the womb. One in a hundred of these children may then go on to develop a Wilms tumour. With the information from a study published today, doctors will be able to focus on which of these clusters pose the biggest threat of developing into cancer,” Dr Jones said.
Around 70 children are diagnosed with Wilms tumour in the UK each year, the most common childhood renal cancer, affecting approximately one in every 10,000 children. Wilms Tumour is very treatable and most children can be cured. However, if both kidneys are affected the cure rate is lower and it is more difficult to preserve kidney function.
These higher risk clusters of embryonic kidney cells, are found in 30-40 per cent of infants with Wilms. Where the cancer has spread to both kidneys, these clusters are found in close to 100 per cent of cases.
This latest advance comes hot on the heels of a paper published in November by Professor Nazneen Rahman, Professor of Human Genetics, at The Institute of Cancer Research, which showed that 5 per cent of children with Wilms tumour develop the condition because they have defects in growth genes on chromosome 11. Children with the growth gene abnormalities face about a 20 per cent risk of developing Wilms Tumour and it is also more likely for these children to develop cancer in both kidneys.
The study, published in Nature Genetics, involved 437 children with Wilms tumour from ten British childhood cancer centres and 29 families with more than one child with this form of cancer from around the world.
Dr Lesley Walker, Director of Cancer Information at Cancer Research UK, said: “The causes of many types of childhood cancer are still unknown, so this discovery of some of the genetic changes leading to the development of Wilms tumour, is very important. Although most children with Wilms tumour are successfully treated, these results could help doctors to optimise the care they are given. In addition, tests for the genetic faults could allow early detection of recurrence of the tumour and of other cases of Wilms in the patient’s family.”
Dr Jones’ work was carried at The Institute of Cancer Research and funded by Cancer Research UK, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, CLIC Sargent, and the University of Bristol Cancer Research Fund.
Professor Rahman’s work was carried out at The Institute and The Royal Marsden Hospital and partly funded by Cancer Research UK with a grant from Sir Michael and Lady Kadoorie.
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Notes for editors
About The Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden Hospital
The Institute of Cancer Research is Europe’s leading cancer research centre with expert scientists working on cutting edge research. It was founded in 1909 to carry out research into the causes of cancer and to develop new strategies for its prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care. For more information visit ww.icr.ac.uk
The Institute is a charity that relies on voluntary income. The Institute is one of the world’s most cost-effective major cancer research organisations with over 95p in every £ of total income directly supporting research.
The Royal Marsden Hospital. was the first hospital in the world dedicated to cancer treatment and research into the causes of cancer. A world leader in research, drug trialling and diagnostics, The Royal Marsden provides inpatient, day care and outpatient services for all areas of cancer treatment.
Today the hospital in partnership with The Institute of Cancer Research, forms the largest comprehensive cancer centre in Europe with more than 40,000 patients from the UK and abroad seen each year.
About Cancer Research UK
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