St. Jude Children's Hospital is known throughout the world for its groundbreaking research relating to childhood cancer. One of their stars is Australian-born Charles Mullighan who has gained attention for discovering what is described as "the missing piece" in the puzzle of genetic mutations that contribute to the onset of childhood leukemia.
Mullighan recently described his work to the Memphis Business Journal:
“The most common childhood cancer,” says Mullighan, “is ALL, a genetic disease.” He explains that ALL stops normal white blood cells, which constitute the body’s natural immune system, from growing; without adequate natural immunity, infections eventually overwhelm and kill the patient.
Mullighan says that, while 94% of ALL sufferers are now cured at St. Jude (up tremendously from the 4% cure rate when the hospital opened nearly five decades ago), there is still the remaining 6% who are not cured and as much as 25% who relapse years later.
“We want 100%,” Mullighan says of the institution’s goal to cure ALL. And the discovery of genetic lesions peculiar to ALL patients is leading to applications in other types of cancers.