Personalising treatments for children with medulloblastomas

Friday 2 November 2018

Scientists identify a subgroup of children diagnosed with medulloblastoma that could be given less aggressive treatments

The findings of this study will help clinicians personalise treatment regimens and give kinder and less aggressive treatments to children diagnosed with low-risk medulloblastoma.

The targeted therapy will help improve quality of life by reducing the long-term side effects caused due to aggressive treatments regimens.

Medulloblastoma is the most common high grade brain tumour found in children, accounting for 15-20% of all childhood brain tumours.

Research has shown that this tumour can be divided into four subgroups with varying prognoses based on clinical, genetic, and demographic differences. The four subgroups are called: WNT, SHH, Group 3, and Group 4 medulloblastoma.

All children who are diagnosed with Group 3 and Group 4 medulloblastoma are currently categorised as having standard-risk and given the same intense treatment.

The study, led by Professor Steve Clifford, from Newcastle University and Dr Edward Schwalbe, from Northumbria University, found that a subgroup of children diagnosed with Group 3 and Group 4 medulloblastoma could be classified as having favourable-risk and given less aggressive treatments.

The study analysed tissue samples that were collected during the 2001-2006 PNET4 clinical trial on patients with standard-risk medulloblastoma.

The researchers found chromosomal markers that identified patients as having either 100% survival (low-risk) or 60% survival (high-risk).

Chromosomes are unique structures found in a cell that carry all the genetic information. These structures are made up of DNA being wound tightly around special proteins.

There were marked changes in the chromosomes of children that were classified as having 100% survival (low-risk).

“Our findings provide a new blueprint for the personalisation of treatment in medulloblastoma so that all children are not given the same intensity of therapy,” said Professor Clifford, senior co-author of the study.

“This study shows that low-risk patients may receive kinder treatments aimed at reducing toxicity and side effects, while targeting more intensive treatments to the high-risk patients who need it most.”

The findings of the study will improve the clinical management of medulloblastomas, bringing us a step closer to halving the harm caused by brain tumours.

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