Pre-natal origins of childhood leukemia

Rev Clin Exp Hematol. 2003 Sep;7(3):233-45.


Chimeric fusion genes derived by chromosome translocation provide stable, sensitive and clone-specific markers for tracking the origins of leukemic cells and the natural history of disease and have been particularly informative in studies with twins concordant for leukemia and in retrospective scrutiny of archived neonatal blood spots. These data have indicated that in pediatric leukemia the majority, but not all, of the chromosome translocations arise, in utero, during fetal hemopoiesis, probably as initiating events. In most cases, functionally complementary and secondary genetic events are also required. These are acquired rapidly, and possibly in utero also, in infant acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) but post-natally for most childhood ALL and acute myeloblastic leukemia (AML). An important consequence of the latter is a very variable and occasionally protracted post-natal latency (1-15 years). Another important corollary is that functional chromosomal translocations and pre-leukemic clones arise at a substantially higher frequency (approximately 100x) before birth than the cumulative incidence or risk of disease. These natural histories provide an important framework for consideration of key etiological events in pediatric leukemia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Chromosomes, Human / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Leukemia / embryology*
  • Leukemia / genetics*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / embryology
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / genetics
  • Pregnancy
  • Translocation, Genetic / genetics