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Why do breast cancer survivors often develop leukemia after cancer therapy?

ANI
Published Dec 8, 2015, 7:21 pm IST
Updated Mar 26, 2019, 7:46 pm IST
Certain cancer treatments that target tumor cells can also affect normal, healthy cells
Representative image
 Representative image

Washington: A new study has identified the characteristics that may increase a breast cancer survivor's risk of developing leukemia after undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiation.

The University of Chicago findings are a first step toward finding ways to prevent this serious and potentially life-threatening treatment-related complication.

 

Certain cancer treatments that target tumor cells can also affect normal, healthy cells and may increase a patient's risk of later developing leukemia. Breast cancer survivors now account for the majority of therapy-related leukemia cases. As cancer survivors are living longer after treatment, efforts to understand and prevent this complication are essential.

To investigate, the team examined the characteristics of 88 breast cancer survivors with therapy-related leukemia.

The researchers found that breast cancer survivors who develop therapy-related leukemia often have personal and family histories suggestive of inherited cancer susceptibility. Also, one in five of the women in the study carried an inherited mutation in a gene associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

"The findings justify a long-term follow-up study of women with and without inherited breast cancer gene mutations who are treated with similar therapy for breast cancer. This would enable us to understand how these genes impact therapy-related leukemia risk and whether specific treatments come with higher risks based on a woman's inherited genetics," said Jane Churpek.

She noted that this knowledge would help doctors have more individualized conversations about the potential risks versus benefits of initial treatments for breast cancer.

The study is published online in CANCER.

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