While the majority of leukemia cases occur in the absence of any known predisposing factor, there are germline mutations that significantly increase the risk of developing hematopoietic malignancies in childhood. In this review article, we describe a number of these mutations and their clinical features. These predispositions can be broadly classified as those leading to bone marrow failure, those involving tumor suppressor genes, DNA repair defects, immunodeficiencies or other congenital syndromes associated with transient myeloid disorders. While leukemia can develop as a secondary event in the aforementioned syndromes, there are also several syndromes that specifically lead to the development of leukemia as their primary phenotype. Many of the genes discussed in this review can also be somatically mutated in other cancers, highlighting the importance of understanding shared alterations and mechanisms underpinning syndromic and sporadic leukemia.
Keywords: cancer syndrome; genetic predisposition; germline; hematologic malignancy; leukemia; oncogene; tumor suppressor.