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Understanding the origins of medulloblastoma

Fast facts

  • Official title: Dissecting the origins of medulloblastoma subgroups
  • Lead researcher: Dr Laure Bihannic
  • Where: St Jude Children's Research Hospital
  • When: September 2018 - August 2021
  • Cost: £180,000
  • Research type: Paediatric, Medulloblastoma (High Grade), Academic

Medulloblastoma is the most common high-grade brain tumour occurring in children. Medulloblastomas are divided into the following sub-groups based on different clinical and biological characteristics: WNT, SHH, Group 3 and Group 4. Group 3 and 4 medulloblastomas account for approximately 60% of all diagnoses and are often associated with poor outcomes. The poor outcomes can be attributed to a lack of accurate preclinical models, which are crucial to test new treatments before clinical trials. Thus, it is important to conduct further research to characterise Group 3 and 4 medulloblastomas to create accurate preclinical models.

Deciphering the cellular origins of Groups 3 and 4 medulloblastomas

To create effective preclinical tumour models, it is imperative to know the cells from which the tumours originate. While it is known which cells WNT and SHH medulloblastomas arise from, the cellular origins of Groups 3 and 4 remain unknown. The aim of this research project, led by Dr Laure Bihannic, is to understand which cells give rise to Groups 3 and 4 medulloblastomas and use this knowledge to create accurate preclinical models for these subgroups.

To accomplish this, Dr Bihannic will study the development of the cerebellum – an area of the brain that controls coordination and balance, and is where medulloblastomas are commonly found. She will then analyse the various cells in that region and identify ones that are most similar to Groups 3 and 4 medulloblastoma cells. Using the identified cells, she will create preclinical tumour models for Groups 3 and 4.

Investing in the future of medulloblastoma research

This research project will provide a much better understanding of medulloblastomas and generate new models to test treatments. It also highlights The Charity's commitment to developing the workforce and supporting early-career researchers, as this project will be conducted as part of Dr Bihannic's post-doctoral fellowship.

One third of medulloblastoma patients are still incurable, and those that survive can suffer dramatic side effects due to current therapies, such as neurological disorders. This is still a big area that needs to be studied and a lot of improvement needs to be made.

Dr Laure Bihannic, St Jude Children's Research Hospital

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"I've always been interested in cancer research in general, especially the fact that cancer research can often be translated directly to the clinic. This was something that really drove me as a young scientist." Dr Laure Bihannic