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Friday, January 05, 2007

Scientists identify gene linked to the most common type of kidney cancer in children

ScientificAmerican.com: Scientists have identified a gene linked to the most common type of kidney cancer in children, and expressed hope this might help doctors determine which young patients are most at risk of dying.

Writing on Thursday in the journal Science, Massachusetts General Hospital researchers said about 30 percent of cases of the cancer called Wilms tumor involve mutations in a gene called WTX located on the sex-determining X chromosome.

About 90 percent of childhood kidney cancer cases are Wilms tumor. It occurs in roughly one in 10,000 children worldwide. It is treated with surgery and chemotherapy, with about 80 percent of patients surviving. It usually appears by age 5.

The disease also is called nephroblastoma. "The typical treatment for these children is you remove the kidney that's affected. If they have tumors in both kidneys, you take out one kidney and part of the other kidney and then you give chemotherapy," said Dr. Daniel Haber, director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center.

"Twenty percent of these children will then have a recurrence of their tumor and die of their disease. So, clearly, if you could identify them up front, you would give more aggressive treatment," Haber, senior author of the study, said in an interview.

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