Cancer treatment of tumours in very young children is to benefit from a study that has identified the important role of the clusterin gene.
Also named apolipoprotein J, the gene was discovered 20 years ago and is found in human tissue and fluids.
It is only now that the gene has been found to act as a tumour repressor of neuroblastoma, an extra-cranial solid tumour common in under-five-year-olds.
Dr Arturo Sala, of the UCL Institute of Child Health, commented: "Our team found that in neuroblastoma, expression of clusterin is repressed by the cancer gene MYCN, which is typically activated in this childhood malignancy."
He added that the high mortality rate of Neuroblastoma did not raise its profile and it is still little-known, particularly when compared with leukaemia, making the work particularly vital.
Some 650 cases of neuroblastoma are diagnosed every year in the US and half of these are found in children aged under two years old.