A first for kids

About 10 percent of childhood cancer can be attributed to genetics. While genomic analysis has been used for some time to identify the risk of inherited cancer in adults, scientists are now using genomic analysis to identify genetic risk factors and to diagnose cancer at an early age in children.

“We are now able to detect which children are most at risk of developing rare pediatric cancers and identify cancers that may have been developing even before the child was born,” said Gail Tomlinson, M.D., Ph.D., professor and interim chair of the Department of Pediatrics.

Dr. Tomlinson is part of a panel of researchers selected by the American Association of Cancer Research to determine—for the first time—international pediatric cancer screening guidelines for more than 50 of the most common syndromes that can develop into pediatric cancer. Dr. Tomlinson contributed to four of the 18 papers published in the association’s journal, Clinical Cancer Research. The series of pediatric cancer screening articles are freely accessible to the public and represent the first comprehensive summary of cancer genetic risks in children.

“Because cancer in children is rare, it’s not practical to screen all children,” Dr. Tomlinson said. “If parents know of relatives who have had multiple pediatric cancers or very early-onset adult cancers, or if we see birth defects in children that are associated with cancer syndromes, genomic analysis can be an excellent risk factor and diagnostic tool.”

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