Childhood acute lymphocytic leukemia and perspectives on risk assessment of early-life stage exposures

Mutat Res. Nov-Dec 2006;613(2-3):138-60. doi: 10.1016/j.mrrev.2006.09.001. Epub 2006 Oct 16.


Recognition that children are a potentially susceptible subpopulation has led to the development of child-specific sensitivity factors. Establishing reliable sensitivity factors in support of risk assessment of early-life stage exposures can be aided by evaluating studies that enhance our understanding both of the biological basis of disease processes and the potential role of environmental exposures in disease etiology. For these reasons, we evaluated childhood acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) studies from the point of view of mechanism and etiology. ALL is the most common form of childhood cancer proposed to result from a prenatal primary event and a postnatal second event. This multi-stage model is supported by the observation that chromosomal translocations/fusion genes (e.g., TEL-AML1) involved in producing ALL are detected at birth (prenatal event), and a postnatal event (e.g., TEL deletion) is required for disease manifestation. It appears that a proportion of ALL cases are the result of environmental exposures, in which case preconceptional, prenatal, and postnatal stages are likely to be critical exposure windows. To this end, we recognized postnatal infection-related risk factors as potential candidates associated with the ALL second event. Additionally, we discuss use of ALL-associated fusion genes and genetic polymorphisms, together or separately, as indicators of ALL susceptibility and increased risk. The possibility of using fusion genes alone as biomarkers of response is also discussed because they can serve as predictors of key events in the development of a mode of action (a sequence of key events, starting with interaction of an agent with a cell, ultimately resulting in cancer formation) for particular environmental exposures. Furthermore, we discuss use of an initiated animal model for ALL, namely transgenic mice with TEL-AML1 expression, for exploring mechanisms by which different classes of environmental exposures could be involved in inducing the postnatal step in ALL formation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Child
  • Cocarcinogenesis
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Female
  • Gene Fusion
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / etiology*
  • Precursor Cell Lymphoblastic Leukemia-Lymphoma / genetics*
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Assessment
  • Translocation, Genetic