Send to

Choose Destination
Rev Environ Health. 2001 Jul-Sep;16(4):263-79.

Childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia: genetic determinants of susceptibility and disease outcome.

Author information

Hôpital Sainte-Justine, Département de Pédiatrie, Université de Montréal, Canada.


The origin of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common pediatric cancer, can be explained by a combination of genetic factors and environmental exposure. The environmental toxicants to which an individual is exposed are biotransformed and eliminated from the body after metabolic conversion mediated by Phase I and Phase II xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes. Phase I enzymes catalyze hydroxylation, reduction and oxidation reactions of xenobiotics (carcinogens/drugs), often converting them into more active or toxic compounds. Phase II enzymes catalyze conjugation reactions (glucuronidation, acetylation, methylation), thereby converting the metabolites into non-reactive, water-soluble products that are eliminated from the organism. The genetic polymorphism underlying the variation in enzyme activity can modify susceptibility to diverse adult cancers, probably by influencing the activation and removal of toxicants or drugs. Here we present an overview of the role of genetic variants of certain Phase I and Phase II enzymes in the development of childhood ALL, a good model for such studies because of its short latency period. The genetic contribution to the development of ALL is examined by association studies that analyze the loci of Phase I enzymes (cytochrome P-450, myeloperoxidase) and Phase II enzymes (quinone-oxidoreductase, glutathione-S-transferase, N-acetyltransferase). The loci of the enzyme variants CYPlA1, CYP2E1, NQO1, GSTM1, GSTP1, NAT2 are associated with disease development, and evidence of gene-gene interactions has emerged as well. Despite the improvements in treatment, resistant cases of ALL remain a leading cause of cancer-related death in children. Although the underlying mechanism of drug resistance is not well understood, differences in the capacity of ALL patients to process drugs and environmental carcinogens could play a role by modifying the risk of recurrent malignancy, as well as the response to therapy. Therefore, polymorphic genes encoding carcinogen- and drug-metabolizing enzymes may not only increase the risk of ALL but also influence the risk of relapse in patients. We found that the prognosis of patients with CYPlA1 and NQO1 variants was worse than that of patients who lack these variants. We conclude that genotyping ALL patients for functional polymorphisms of candidate genes can become an important tool in predicting disease outcome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Loading ...
Support Center