Native American children have higher leukemia relapse risk

Apr 14, 2011

Native American children have a higher risk of relapsing after recovering from Leukemia.

Native Americans may have a higher chance of relapsing after going into remission from a case of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) than children of other races, according to a study in the upcoming edition of Nature Genetics.

Researchers from St. Jude's cancer hospital and the Children's Oncology Group looked at records for 2,534 children and adolescents suffering from the specific form of cancer. They found that those whose genetic makeups reflected at least 10 percent Native American heritage were 59 percent more likely to relapse.

Though researchers aren't exactly certain of the root of this difference, when looking at Hispanics, many of which had a primarily Native American background, they found most possessed the gene PDE4B. This gene has previously been linked to relapse and is also associated with reduced sensitivity to the medicine that is frequently used in ALL treatment.

Researchers found that giving Native American children with ALL an extra chemotherapy treatment could possibly decrease their rates of remission and remedy the disparity.

Relapse rates vary for different types of cancer. However, most patients are aware of the potential that their cancer will return. Even those who have overcome cancer should prepare themselves for this possibility by obtaining life insurance coverage, to provide for their families in their absence, should they succumb to the illness. 

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