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Posted by Stacy Tsai on Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - 14:40 | TEDMED Great Challenge

The TEDMED Great Challenges Program will bring the medical community closer to answering this question. AYA cancers are a focus of the “Overlooked Cancer Cohort” and AYAs are a medically underserved population whose disease requires greater research and understanding.

A large impediment to improving the survival rates of AYA cancer patients is that the biological and genetic features of AYA tumors have not been thoroughly researched and are poorly understood. Specific mutations or characteristics within the human genome may be highly correlated with cancers found among the AYA cohort. Studying those genetic differences in AYA tumors compared to pediatric or older adult tumors may shed light on the specific causes of AYA cancer.

Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) is a cancer commonly found among children and also seen in adolescent and young adult patients. Reported by Dr. Christine J. Harrison, Professor of Childhood Cancer Cytogenetics from Newcastle University, AYA ALL patients have genetic aberrations similar to that of pediatric patients, although the incidence of those genetic abnormalities are different. Additionally, different genetic abnormalities have been found among AYA ALL patients that are specific to patients within this age group.

While genetics play a large role in determining the cause of AYA cancers, could the environment be at work as well? How does “nurture” play into the progression of AYA cancers and what might the interplay be of one’s genetics vs. one’s environment?

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