Article Abstract

Down syndrome and leukemia: insights into leukemogenesis and translational targets

Authors: Marion K. Mateos, Draga Barbaric, Sally-Anne Byatt, Rosemary Sutton, Glenn M. Marshall


Children with Down syndrome (DS) have a significantly increased risk of childhood leukemia, in particular acute megakaryoblastic leukemia (AMKL) and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (DS-ALL). A pre-leukemia, called transient myeloproliferative disorder (TMD), characterised by a GATA binding protein 1 (GATA1) mutation, affects up to 30% of newborns with DS. In most cases, the pre-leukemia regresses spontaneously, however one-quarter of these children will go on to develop AMKL or myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). AMKL and MDS occurring in young children with DS and a GATA1 somatic mutation are collectively termed myeloid leukemia of Down syndrome (ML-DS). This model represents an important multi-step process of leukemogenesis, and further study is required to identify therapeutic targets to potentially prevent development of leukemia. DS-ALL is a high-risk leukemia and mutations in the JAKSTAT pathway are frequently observed. JAK inhibitors may improve outcome for this type of leukemia. Genetic and epigenetic studies have revealed likely candidate drivers involved in development of ML-DS and DS-ALL. Overall this review aims to identify potential impacts of new research on how we manage children with DS, pre-leukemia and leukemia.