ASPPH logo


Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

WashU: Genetic Mutations as People Age Could Cause Leukemia

Mutations in leukemia-associated genes of older people may explain why leukemia increases with age, according to new research from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and the university’s School of Medicine.

[Photo: Dr. Kimberly Johnson]

Researchers analyzed blood samples from 3,000 people enrolled in The Cancer Genome Atlas project, which catalogues the genetic errors involved in more than 20 types of cancers. Researchers noticed that mutations were present in the blood of some patients, but not in tumor samples from those same patients.

At least 2 percent of the patients over age 40 and 6 percent of those over 70 had the mutations linked to leukemia and lymphoma.

“Mutations in genes associated with leukemia in the blood offer cells with the mutations a growth advantage over other blood cells without them,” said Dr. Kimberly Johnson, assistant professor at the Brown School and a co-author of the study. “This was the theory but now we have large-scale evidence to explain age-related increases in the incidence of blood cancers. This study also identifies key genes that are implicated in driving the development of these cancers.”

The study was published October 19 in Nature Medicine.

Read more: