Local scientists have discovered the mutation of a gene which is responsible for drug resistance and relapse for the most prevalent type of leukemia in children.
The study, which conducted genetic checks on samples from Chinese and German patients, was published in leading medical journal Nature Medicine.
There are about 20,000 children who are diagnosed with leukemia annually. Among them, 80 percent suffer from acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Drug-resistance and relapse is the major cause for unsuccessful treatment, according to experts from Shanghai Children's Medical Center and the Southern China National Human Genome Research Center, which conducted the study.
"To find out how genetic lesions contribute to leukemia relapse, we selected 160 patients in China and 220 patients in Germany to identify relapse-specific mutations by checking their samples during initial outburst, remission after treatment, and relapse," said Dr Zhou Binbing, the scientist who led the study.
The study found that mutation of phosphoribosyl pyrophosphate synthetase 1, or PRPS1, can cause drug resistance and relapse among children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
Doctors said the study was very important for clinical practice. "We can do gene screening on patients before prescribing treatment and those with such PRPS1 mutation can be given stem cell transplant directly, instead of failing medication therapy," said Dr Tang Jingyan, director of Shanghai Children's Medical Center's hematological tumor department.