Richard Wilson, who led the study at Washington University in St Louis, attributes the breakthrough to a rise in the speed of whole-genome sequencing, and a drop in its cost.
The researcher believes that genes behind other diseases may also be discovered soon, reports New Scientist magazine.
To date, studies searching for cancer genes have been based on a "usual suspects" approach, which involves guessing at likely candidates and sequencing them to see if they differ in tumours and normal tissue. However, this approach has not worked well for acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
In the current study, Wilson and his colleagues used a recently developed sequencing method to look at the entire genome of cells from an AML tumour, and from the patient's skin.
The process, said the researchers, helped uncover 10 genes that differed between the tissues.
According to them, two of the 10 genes were known to be involved in leukemia, but the other eight had not been suspected.
The team have revealed that three of the eight genes are tumour-suppressors, while the others have functions that could link them to cancer.
However, the researchers concede that it has not been proved as yet whether the new genes help cause leukemia.