UK researchers have for the first time identified the molecule that stimulates leukaemia to develop in children. Scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research found pre-cancerous cells multiplied when exposed to a molecule produced in the body as a response to infection.
The molecule, TGF, is triggered as a normal response to infection and so the new finding provides the first experimental evidence as to how common infections might trigger childhood leukaemia.
Dr Shabih Syed, Scientific Director at Leukaemia Research says: “Before this study, there had been only circumstantial evidence to implicate infections in the progression from a child carrying pre-leukaemic cells to actually having leukaemia. There was no evidence of the mechanism by which this might happen. While infection is clearly only one factor in triggering progression, this study greatly increases the strength of evidence for its role in the commonest form of childhood leukaemia.”
The research was funded by Leukaemia Research, The Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund, The Institute of Cancer Research and the Medical Research Council.