Latest research suggests that only a few genetic changes are responsible for childhood acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
Researchers at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital say that their work suggests that the cancer arises from just a handful of missteps.
They came to this conclusion after carrying out a comprehensive analysis of the genome of childhood acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).
Senior author Dr. James Downing, St. Jude scientific director, says that the findings highlight questions about what it takes to transform a normal cell into a cancer cell.
"The complement of genetic lesions varies across the different genetic subtypes of AML, but there are very few lesions in total. That is surprising. Most cancers have lots of alterations," he said.
Based on the study's findings, Downing stressed the need to survey the entire genome of childhood AML, and to take a more detailed look at particular AML subtypes.
Lead author Dr. Ina Radtke, a postdoctoral fellow in Downing's laboratory, said: "This rigorous systemic genome-wide study was an important step to direct our future efforts to the most effective strategies to pinpoint lesions in AML."
A research article describing the study has been published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.