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Medulloblastoma Epigenome Regulation in Treatment (MERIT)

Fast facts

  • Official title: Medulloblastoma Epigenome Regulation in Treatment (MERIT)
  • Lead researcher: Dr Paul Northcott
  • Where: St Jude Children's Research Hospital
  • When: September 2018 – June 2023
  • Cost: £1.5 million over a period of five years
  • Research type: Paediatric, Medulloblastoma (High Grade), Academic
  • Grant round: Quest for Cures

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.

What is it?

Previous research has shown that epigenetic changes or changes to the structure of DNA which alter the way DNA is ‘read’ contribute to the treatment resistance in medulloblastomas. The research team, led by Dr Paul Northcott, is to identify these 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. They will then follow-up by finding treatments that have the ability to reverse resistance to treatment and then translate their work into pre-clinical models.

Why is it important?

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 suggests that the changes occurring in the tumour during the course of treatment may be driving resistance to treatment, and leading to tumour progression. It is therefore important to understand what these changes are and how they contribute to the failure of current treatments.

Who will it help?

This research will help children diagnosed with Group 3 medulloblastomas and their family members.

Milestones

The researchers will be conducting various laboratory tests on approximately 30 tumour samples to identify and map the various epigenetic changes that take place in the tumour cells. They will also map the changes to the cells in response to treatment.

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