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The detection and significance of chromosomal abnormalities in childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Christine Harrison FRCPath FMedSci


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In childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), cytogenetics plays an essential role in diagnosis and prediction of outcome. Conventional cytogenetic analysis, complemented by fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH), is highly effective in the accurate detection of chromosomal abnormalities. For the precise identification of specific genetic changes, molecular techniques may be applied. Chromosomal changes in ALL may be of structural or numerical type. A large number of established structural chromosomal rearrangements have now been described for which the genetic alterations and effect on prognosis are well known. These include t(9;22)(q34;q11) and BCR/ABL, rearrangements of 11q23 involving MLL, t(12;21)(p13;q22) with the ETV6/AML1 fusion, t(1;19)(q23;p13) with E2A/PBX1, t(8;14)(q24;q32) and the immunoglobulin genes. Genetic changes associated with T ALL are also known, although their effect on outcome is less pronounced. Rare chromosomal abnormalities are continually being discovered in small patient subgroups leading to the identification of new ALL associated genetic changes. Alterations in chromosome number have a strong impact on outcome in childhood ALL. The association of a high hyperdiploid karyotype (51-65 chromosomes) with a good prognosis has been known for more than 20 years. Conversely, the loss of chromosomes in the near-haploid group (23-28 chromosomes) indicates a poor outcome. New methods of cancer classification involving gene expression profiling may eventually supercede cytogenetic analysis in the diagnosis and prediction of outcome in leukaemia. It is more likely that they will be used in a complementary approach alongside cytogenetic, FISH and molecular analysis to guide patient management in childhood ALL.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Harrison CJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Blood Reviews

Year: 2001

Volume: 15

Issue: 1

Pages: 49-59

ISSN (print): 0268-960X

ISSN (electronic): 1532-1681

Publisher: Churchill Livingstone


DOI: 10.1054/blre.2001.0150

Notes: Journal Article Review Scotland


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