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Research into chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, infection and genetics

A study led by The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) researchers has revealed that death from infection in patients with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL) is associated with certain gene mutations.

Infection is the leading cause of death in this type of cancer, so this first-of-its-kind study could help identify high-risk patients and inform ways to best manage their chances of infection. This is particularly relevant now, with COVID-19 posing another route to infection, putting patients at more risk than ever.

The study, published in the journal Leukemia and led by scientists at ICR, found that patients with CLL who carried one or more mutations in the BRAF, FBXW7, NRAS or XPO1 genes were more likely to die from contracting an infection than those without.

It was the first study to analyse the causes of death in CLL patients in detail – and, in particular, to look at the causes of death from infection, which is the leading cause of deaths associated with CLL, accounting for around half.

Lead author Monica Else, Honorary Senior Scientific Officer at the ICR, said: "It is very possible that infections play a role in the way CLL develops and if so, these mutations might be a part of that.”

www.icr.ac.uk

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