Recent research has found that a single signalling pathway regulates the growth and spread of Group 3 medulloblastomas
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.
Children with Group 3 medulloblastoma have poorer outcomes due to the tumour’s aggressive nature and ability to spread to the spinal cord.
However, the mechanism regulating the tumour’s ability to grow and spread has been largely unknown.
A recent study, conducted by researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute at University of Utah, in collaboration with the Stanford University School of Medicine, found that a signalling pathway, controlled by a protein called NOTCH1.
NOTCH1 is found on the surface of cancer cells and is critical in the process that allows the tumour to grow and spread out to the spinal cord.
“NOTCH 1 has a unique attribute that makes the cancerous cells more likely to spread and form new tumours, as well as self-renew. Understanding this interaction from signals outside the cells is a major step,” said Samuel Cheshier, lead author of the study.
In addition researchers showed that drugs blocking NOTCH1 in pre-clinical models slowed tumour growth and increased survival.
This means that the NOTCH1 inhibitors could have a potential use as a therapy in the future.
The researchers are now working towards developing a clinical trial to test this experimental treatment.
The treatment would be administered directly into the brain and spinal cord, where the tumours reside.
While further tests are required to confirm the safety and efficacy of this treatment, it is a step in the right direction as this treatment could improve the clinical management of Group 3 medulloblastomas.