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Braz J Med Biol Res. 2007 Jun;40(6):749-60.

Acute leukemia in early childhood.

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Divisão de Medicina Experimental, Centro de Pesquisa, Instituto Nacional de Câncer, Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brasil.


Acute leukemia in early childhood is biologically and clinically distinct. The particular characteristics of this malignancy diagnosed during the first months of life have provided remarkable insights into the etiology of the disease. The pro-B, CD10 negative immunophenotype is typically found in infant acute leukemia, and the most common genetic alterations are the rearrangements of the MLL gene. In addition, the TEL/AML1 fusion gene is most frequently found in children older than 24 months. A molecular study on a Brazilian cohort (age range 0-23 months) has detected TEL/AML1+ve (N = 9), E2A/PBX1+ve (N = 4), PML/RARA+ve (N = 4), and AML1/ETO+ve (N = 2) cases. Undoubtedly, the great majority of genetic events occurring in these patients arise prenatally. The environmental exposure to damaging agents that give rise to genetic changes prenatally may be accurately determined in infants since the window of exposure is limited and known. Several studies have shown maternal exposures that may give rise to leukemogenic changes. The Brazilian Collaborative Study Group of Infant Acute Leukemia has found that mothers exposed to dipyrone, pesticides and hormones had an increased chance to give birth to babies with infant acute leukemia [OR = 1.48 (95%CI = 1.05-2.07), OR = 2.27 (95%CI = 1.56-3.31) and OR = 9.08 (95%CI = 2.95-27.96)], respectively. This review aims to summarize recent clues that have facilitated the elucidation of the biology of early childhood leukemias, with emphasis on infant acute leukemia in the Brazilian population.

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