New subgroups identified for high-grade gliomas in children

Researchers at The Institute of Cancer Research identify new subgroups for high-grade glial tumours occurring in children

Gliomas are the most common malignant brain tumour in children and represent the greatest cause of cancer-related deaths under the age of 19. Paediatric glioblastoma and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) are types of high-grade gliomas that occur in children.

These tumour types are associated with especially poor survival rates and children are expected to live for about 9-15 months after the initial diagnosis.

Treatment options for childhood high-grade gliomas are limited and ineffective, meaning it is vital that we improve our understanding on how the tumour cells differ from normal cells.

A study carried out at The Institute of Cancer Research, co-funded by The Brain Tumour Charity, analysed data gathered from 1067 children and young adults (up to the age of 30) with either high-grade glioblastoma or DIPG.

The research team, led by Professor Chris Jones, discovered that these tumours could be divided into ten different sub-groups based on various characteristics such as tumour type, as well as age of diagnosis, location of tumour, and number of mutations found within the tumour.

“Our study uncovered a wealth of new information about children's brain cancers. We found that tumours that have historically been lumped together under one diagnosis are in fact comprised of many, remarkably different, diseases," said Professor Jones.

In addition, the researchers observed that certain genetic sub-types were less aggressive and more susceptible to adult cancer drugs. These results support the practice of testing children for genetic mutations.

“It's exciting that several types look like they could be clearly treatable using either existing drugs on the market or other treatments under development."

The results of this study have significant implications, as they could serve to improve the accuracy of diagnosis, as well as identify targets for new or existing treatments.