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Scripps discovers gene responsible for childhood cancer

Researchers at San Diego’s Scripps Translational Science Institute have discovered a gene responsible for the majority of inherited causes of a common childhood cancer, it was announced today.

“This is a significant finding because it means we can screen for people who carry mutations to see if they are at risk for neuroblastoma,’' said Dr. Nicholas Schork, director of biostatistics for STSI.

Neuroblastoma is a cancer of the nervous system that accounts for 15 percent of childhood cancer deaths and has a survival rate of less than 40 percent.

Scientists predicted more than 30 years ago that there was a genetic element to the disease, according to the STSI.

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The predisposition gene for neuroblastoma was discovered following a study at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia of 20 affected families, involving a total of 176 people, according to the STSI.

The research, published in the current online issue of Nature, opens the door for a long-sought-after diagnostic test for predisposition to neuroblastoma, as well as potential treatments, according to Schork.

The STSI is an initiative of Scripps Health, in collaboration with The Scripps Research Institute.