St. Louis Public Radio News
5:17 pm
Mon January 25, 2010

New $65 million childhood cancer project underway

St. Louis, MO – Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis are part of a new effort to identify and understand the genetic origins of childhood cancers.

Washington University's Genome Center and St. Jude Children's Research Hospital are collaborating on the three-year, $65-million project announced Monday.

Rick Wilson, head of the Washington University center, says the collaboration will decode the genomes of childhood luekemias, brain tumors and other types of cancers.

"Ultimately having that kind of information not only would allow you to develop new drugs but it would allow you to start to look at each individual cancer case and make decisions as to how best to treat each individual case."

Wilson says the research will focus on 600 St. Jude pediatric patients who donated samples of normal tissue and tumors.

"By doing some 600 tumors as we're going to do over three years as part of this project, that's really going to clarify what's really going on in some of these different tumor types and we'll have a much better handle on what really goes wrong with a patient's DNA."

Wilson says that understanding the genetic causes of childhood cancer holds promise for diagnosis, targeted treatment, perhaps even prevention.