Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

North Researchers in Cancer Breakthrough

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

North Researchers in Cancer Breakthrough

Article excerpt

Byline: Ruth Lognonne Reporter

SCIENTISTS in the North East have made a breakthrough that could lead to better treatment for cancer sufferers.

Researchers at Newcastle University have found that people born with a rare abnormality of their chromosomes have a 2,700-fold increased risk of developing a rare form of childhood cancer, called acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

For this abnomality to happen, two chromosomes are fused together and become prone to shattering, which leads to cancer.

Scientists say the finding could result in better treatment for other types of cancer, as the abnormalities are more common in some types of the illness.

Geneticist Claire Schwab, who is part of the research team at Newcastle University, says a small group of acute lymphoblastic leukaemia patients have repeated sections of chromosome 21 in their affected cells.

"This rare form of the disease requires more intensive treatment than many other types of cancer," she said. "It has to be aggressive to clear the blood of leukaemia.

"This research has enabled us to find out how a cancer develops and what causes it to develop. By doing so, we can target the treatment better.

"We want to limit the amount of therapy given to patients and improve the treatment we administer. The methods we've used to investigate this abnormality can be applied across the board and will hopefully improve the treatment of various cancer types."

Laura Howe, who lives in Newcastle, was first diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 1995 when she was seven years old.

The next nine years were spent fighting the condition, including two relapses and a bone marrow transplant in September 1998, thanks to a donation from little brother Joe.

Before the transplant, Laura's chances of beating leukaemia were given as 50-50. …

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