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New breakthrough into Medulloblastoma

Researchers from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in the US and the German Cancer Research Centre have discovered faulty genes underlying medulloblastoma brain tumours.

Medulloblastomas are the most common brain tumour type in children and, clinically, are split up into four groups. Each of these groups differs in terms of survival rates and the types of brain cells the tumours originate.

Previous steps have been taken to discover what kinds of genetic flaws cause these tumours, but scientists are still unsure of what goes wrong in this complicated disease.

Researchers reviewed almost 500 samples of DNA, along with comparing samples of regular and tumour tissue, from people with medulloblastoma. In addition they studied data from 1,256 patients to discover how active different genes were.

Dr Peter Lichter, lead researcher, says that previously the disease causing genes were understood in only about 30% of group 3 and 4 tumours. However, this new data has expanded the figure and identified genes important in the majority of cases observed in this study.

In more than 75% tumour samples included in the study, researchers found genetic changes or damaged molecular pathways. Two of the damaged genes that were discovered were found in the least understood disease groups, groups 3 and 4, and were linked with cancer.

Researchers hope that these findings will help refine the classification of this disease and develop new and more targeted therapies.