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Our researchers develop new test to assess drugs to tackle childhood brain tumours

Researcher Till Milde and his team from the Hopp Children’s Cancer Center Heidelberg (KiTZ) have developed a new test system.

The test measures the effectiveness of drugs against certain childhood brain tumours on cells in a culture dish.

The Hopp Children’s Cancer Center Heidelberg (KiTZ) is a joint institution of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), University Hospital Heidelberg (UKHD) and the University of Heidelberg (Uni HD).

Pediatric low-grade gliomas (pLGGs) are the most common brain tumours affecting children. Their rate of growth is hard to predict where tumours often develop very slowly, but there are also fast-growing forms. In many cases, the patient’s quality of life is severely restricted.

A research group led by KiTZ researcher Till Milde, a pediatric oncologist at University Hospital Heidelberg who conducts research at the DKFZ, is looking for new substances that target specific molecular biological characteristics of pLGG.

The researchers made use of genetic changes in the cancer cells that are known to cause over-activation of the MAPK signalling pathway to develop a new test system. The test can help with the search for new substances that are effective against this type of brain tumour.

Using the new procedure, which can test several thousand substances in parallel on pLGG cell cultures, the researchers were able to identify a group of promising candidate substances that inhibit the MAPK signalling pathway, thereby suppressing the growth of the cancer cells in the Petri dish.

The researchers also discovered that certain substances used in combination have a synergistic effect on the tumour cells and are particularly effective at slowing down tumour growth.

The scientific results are currently being used by the KiTZ Clinical Trial Unit to prepare a phase I/II clinical trial under the leadership of KiTZ director Olaf Witt. The aim of the trial is to test the effectiveness of new drug combinations for the treatment of pLGGs.

This promising project is funded by The Brain Tumour Charity in the UK through the Everest Project

This project was recently published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics