NACD Science Corner

NACD Science Corner Vol. 14 – Why Do People with Down Syndrome Have Less Cancer?

NACD Science Corner

A study published in Nature – International Journal of Science confirms that individuals with extra copies of chromosome 21, as found in individuals with Down syndrome, have genes that block certain types of cancer growth. This may have far-reaching implications in the therapies we use to treat cancer.

Most types of cancer are rare in individuals with Down syndrome and they are shown to have a far lower mortality rate than those in the general population.

Late cancer researcher Judah Folkman, MD, who founded the Vascular Biology Program at Children’s Hospital Boston, first proposed that these individuals may benefit from an extra gene that blocks angiogenesis (or the development of certain blood vessels that create an environment for cancer growth), as they are also less likely to develop other diseases related to this same type of growth, such as macular degeneration.

This study confirms Dr. Folkman’s theory and provides new insight for the development of specific, targeted treatments. The research proved that the same cells in both mice and humans followed the same type of angiogenesis suppression, meaning they might point to a new and exciting type of cancer therapy.

NACD has been dedicated over the last several decades to addressing issues that impact children and adults with Down syndrome. We seek to change public opinion as well as the opinions of parents and professionals about their potential. Studies like this just confirm what we have always known—that these individuals have many undiscovered gifts to offer and uncover.


  1. Kwan-Hyuck Baek, Alexander Zaslavsky, Ryan C. Lynch, Carmella Britt, Yoshiaki Okada, Richard J. Siarey, M. William Lensch, In-Hyun Park, Sam S. Yoon, Takashi Minami, Julie R. Korenberg, Judah Folkman, George Q. Daley, William C. Aird, Zygmunt Galdzicki & Sandra Ryeom. Down’s syndrome suppression of tumour growth and the role of the calcineurin inhibitor DSCR1Nature, 2009; DOI: 10.1038/nature08062
  2. Children’s Hospital Boston. “Why Do People With Down Syndrome Have Less Cancer? Research In Mice And Human Stem Cells Suggests New Therapeutic Targets.” ScienceDaily. (accessed June 18, 2018).
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