Medulloblastoma is the most common high-grade brain tumour in children. Medulloblastomas are divided into the following sub-groups based on different clinical and biological characteristics: WNT, SHH, Group 3 and Group 4. Children diagnosed with Group 3 medulloblastomas have the worst outcomes due to a high rate of recurrence. This pattern of recurrence suggests that changes occurring in the tumour during the course of treatment may be driving resistance to treatment, leading to tumour progression. It is therefore important to understand these changes and how they contribute to the failure of current treatments.
Previous research has shown that epigenetic changes contribute to treatment resistance in medulloblastomas. Epigenetic changes refer to changes in the structure of DNA that alter the way DNA is 'read' by the cell. The aim of this research programme, led by Dr Paul Northcott, is to identify the epigenetic changes occurring in Group 3 medulloblastomas in response to treatment.
To accomplish this aim, the research team will analyse tumour samples to map the various epigenetic changes occurring in Group 3 medulloblastomas, as well as identify changes occurring in response to chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. The researchers will then identify new treatments that can reverse resistance to treatment and validate their findings in an animal model.
This collaborative research programme will assemble researchers from the US and UK with expertise in genetics, epigenetics, and pre-clinical research. The research programme will provide further understanding of medulloblastomas and promote the development of new treatments.
Research is the only way we will discover kinder, more effective treatments and, ultimately, stamp out brain tumours – for good! However, brain tumours are complex and research in to them takes a great deal of time and money.
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