Research recently published in Nature Genetics proves for the first time that chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) has a genetic basis.
Findings show that close relatives of patients with CLL, such as children, parents and siblings are seven-times more likely to develop this common form of blood cancer than those in the general population.
Unlike breast cancer there is no single disease-risk gene, but Professor Richard Houlston and his team at the Institute of Cancer Research have found six genes with variations in their genetic sequences that are strongly associated with the development of CLL.
CLL is the most common form of leukaemia in the western world. It is characterised by an increased number of white blood cells known as lymphocytes, and the disease occurs predominantly in late middle age onwards.
The study, funded by Leukaemia Research and Cancer Research UK, opens the way for better treatment of existing patients and may lead to preventative medicine in the future.
"Really good news for family. I have had CLL for 6 yrs and since Dec 06 complications with protein 53 defect with 17p and 11q deletions. I get Google alerts for a year now. This is the first I have heard of the research. It makes me feel good that my children and grandchildren (and onwards) could benefit from this research. Thanks to all involved and may the good work continue." - Roland Mockford, Sussex