Researchers discover new type of cancer

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Affects young patients, primarily girls, with rapidly fatal outcome

A team led by a Harvard researcher has identified a new type of cancer that primarily affects young girls. Sara Vargas, an instructor in pathology at Harvard Medical School and a researcher in the Department of Pathology at Children’s Hospital in Boston, led the study that identified the new syndrome. The cancer is characterized by a specific chromosomal abnormality called a 15;19 translocation. This condition is caused by abnormal cell division, during which pieces of chromosome 15 become stuck to chromosome 19, and pieces of chromosome 19 become stuck to chromosome 15. The patients involved in this study were young (age 5 to 34 years) and 5 of 6 were female. “The discovery of this cancer syndrome is an important advance,” said Vargas. “Having found this chromosomal abnormality, scientists have gained a deeper understanding about the biology of cancer, and eventually, will be able to search these regions of the chromosome for the specific gene, or genes, that are responsible for the out-of-control growth seen in cancer.”