Gene clue to vaccine against leukaemia

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The Independent Online

A vaccine capable of preventing childhood leukaemia could soon be a possibility, scientists said yesterday, after discovering an important genetic clue to the disease.

A vaccine capable of preventing childhood leukaemia could soon be a possibility, scientists said yesterday, after discovering an important genetic clue to the disease.

Children born with a certain genetic abnormality linked to leukaemia could be given a jab to prevent them from going on to develop the disease.

About 450 British children are diagnosed with leukaemia a year. They have a "leukaemic gene" called TEL-AML1. The genetic abnormality develops in the womb but it takes an average of three or four years for the child to develop leukaemia.

Scientists from the Institute of Cancer Research have now found that about 1 per cent of newborn babies have the gene - 100 times the incidence of leukaemia itself. This holds out the possibility that the disease could be prevented. Scientists said a second "event" after birth, such as an abnormal response to an infection, could trigger the leukaemia.

Professor Mel Greaves, a researcher, said: "Some form of vaccination in infancy might well prevent leukaemia occurring. That is our goal."

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