Research highlights genetic causes of neuroblastoma

A missing stretch of DNA may provide a key clue to determining why some children are threatened with neuroblastoma. And the new research also highlights how genetic deletions or malfunctioning repetitions can trigger disease--as opposed to single-letter variations that have attracted much of the attention to date.

"This is the first paper to really show that copy number variation--which is just another mechanism of evolution for why you and I are different--can be involved in predisposition of cancer," Dr. John Maris, a researcher at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told Reuters. Maris has identified a new gene that plays a role in neuroblastoma. He identified three others last year.

There's already been a tremendous amount of research showing how single-nucleotide polymorphisms--SNPs--play a role in cancer. Maris and his colleagues have been exploring neuroblastoma, which is responsible for 15 percent of all cancer deaths in children.

"Only two years ago, we had very little idea of what causes neuroblastoma," Maris said in a statement. "Now we have unlocked a lot of the mystery of why neuroblastoma arises in some children and not others."

- read the report from Reuters