Scientists at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have identified the gene which causes the cancer that killed Alex Scott, the little girl from Wynnewood, Pa., who turned her struggle against cancer in the nationwide fundraising drive called Alex's Lemonade stands.
Using new state-of-the-art DNA screening technology, researchers found mutations, or tiny changes on a gene which cause the inherited version of neuroblastoma.
They did it by screening the genetic material from 10 families worldwide with a strong history of the disease.
Doctors say the discovery opens the door to genetic screening for families with a history of neuroblastoma.
And hopefully it can lead to new drugs to treat the cancer.
Drugs which target the same gene are already being used in trials for adult cancers. CHOP doctors say they will soon begin to test those drugs on pediatric cases. About 600 cases of neuroblastoma are diagnosed in the U.S. every year, however, it is an aggressive cancer with a high mortality rate.
Alex died at the age of 8.
Funding for the research came from the National Institutes of Health, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, as well as various foundations, including Alex's Lemonade Stand.