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Genetic link to leukaemia

Scientists in the US have identified a genetic link to cancer that could prove a breakthrough in cancer treatment.

A team based at Washington University unlocked the DNA of a woman in her 50s with acute myeloid leukaemia; she subsequently died as a result of the illness.

Their research, published yesterday (November 6th) in the scientific journal, Nature, found that DNA from her cancerous cells contained ten mutations, only two of which had previously been linked to the cancer.

The DNA of cells in areas the cancer had not spread to did not have these genetic mutations.

Former director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, Dr Francis Collins, commented: "In the past, cancer researchers have been 'looking under the lamp-post' to find the causes of malignancy - but now the team from Washington University has lit up the whole street."

He added that this discovery could herald in a new era in cancer research as the genetic complexity of cancer is very gradually becoming understood.

Acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) occurs when abnormal blood cells accumulate in the bone marrow and obstruct the production of normal blood cells.

Treatment involves chemotherapy and stem cell replication and transplant.

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Genetic link to leukaemia
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