Early infancy (< 1 year of age), massive tumor cell burden, and extremely poor prognosis are characteristic features of a particular subset of childhood acute leukemias (AL). In these cases, chromosome aberrations at the 11q23 band are the most frequently reported cytogenetic abnormalities. We have recently cloned a genetic locus named ALL-1, in which DNA breakpoints are clustered in leukemic patients with 11q23 aberrations. Analysis of the ALL-1 genomic configuration in DNA from 15 infants with AL showed specific ALL-1 rearrangements in 12 cases (80%), including 5 with normal karyotypes. These findings indicate that a consistent genetic defect underlies this particular leukemic subset.

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