Leukemia is the most common childhood cancer with acute lymphoblastic leukemia affecting 1 in every 2,000 children. Professor Mel Greaves of the Institute of Cancer Research in London has spent years trying to formulate a unified theory to explain the cause, for leukemia. Professor Greaves is optimistic that he has found the cause of leukemia and that it is preventable.
Professor Greaves was quoted, “the research study strongly suggests that acute lymphoblastic leukemia has a clear biological cause and is activated by a variety of infections in predisposed kids whose immune system has not be properly primed.” Professor Greaves has found a connection between children who are born with a certain genetic mutation, which makes them susceptible to developing acute lymphoblastic leukemia. This mutation takes place in the womb by accident and will remain latent until the second “hit” to the immune system happens, typically a run-of-the-mill infection.
When the immune system fails to encounter microbes during the first year of life to prime the immune system, the body may trigger acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Not all children with this specific genetic mutation will develop acute lymphoblastic leukemia, in fact, only 1% will. Professor Greaves argues that the absence of pathogens as a factor explains why this form of childhood leukemia is common in wealthy, developed countries, but nearly absent in developing countries. Professor Greaves proposes that exposes children to microbes and other children could help their bodies strengthen their immune system and fight leukemia.
The research and brea through of Professor Greaves has created a foundation for the scientific research community to understand other autoimmune disorders as well, including type 1 diabetes and even allergies.