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CHAPEL HILL — Researchers from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the University of North Carolina Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center have made important discoveries that could lead to better treatment for a rare blood cancer in children that has features of both myeloid and acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

In the journal Nature, UNC Lineberger’s Thomas Alexander, MD, MPH, along with co-first authors Zhaohui Gu, PhD, and Ilaria Iacobucci, PhD, of St. Jude, and corresponding authors Charles Mullighan, MBBS, MD, and Hiroto Inaba, MD, PhD, also of St. Jude, and colleagues reported findings about the genetics of mixed phenotype acute leukemia (MPAL), a type of cancer with features of both acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Their data, generated and analyzed at St. Jude, sets the stage for research into better treatment of this rare and high-risk blood cancer that accounts for approximately 3 percent of childhood acute leukemia cases in the United States.

“Before now, no one has comprehensively studied the biology of this cancer. We were able to compile a large group of samples to characterize the genetics in these high-risk cases with features of both acute myeloid and acute lymphoblastic leukemia,” said Alexander, who is an assistant professor in

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