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An update on our research into children’s brain tumours

Researcher Todd Hankinson and his team at Children’s Hospital Colorado have studied biological differences between paediatric and adult ACP tumours

Dr Todd Hankinson, a neurosurgeon at the Children’s Hospital Colorado leading a five-year research grant funded by us, which focuses on Adamantinomatous Craniopharyngiomas (ACPs).

While ACPs are considered a low grade (benign) tumour, they are associated with some of the worst quality of life effects of any paediatric brain tumour.

This is largely due to the location of the tumour, as they are situated in the lower part of the brain near to the pituitary gland (a group of specialised cells that play a vital role in hormone activity across the body and regulating key bodily functions).

Although these tumours are prevalent in children and young adults, ACPs can affect people of all ages. Therefore, as part of our funded study, Todd Hankinson and his team have been looking into whether adult and paediatric ACPs differ at the genetic level.

It was hoped that new insights in this area may demonstrate similarities between the adult and paediatric disease, making current research into therapeutics relevant for both adults and children with an ACP.

To study this idea, the researchers extracted RNA sequences that were present in 36 ACP samples (27 from children, 9 from adults).

RNA sequences are important as they carry the instructions from genes within DNA to make specific proteins, which in turn may promote tumour growth. Researchers can use this information to try to make new anti-tumour therapies to target these RNA sequences or the proteins that they code for.

The team’s next job was to compare all of the RNA identified from the paediatric and adult tumours (also known as a transcriptome) using statistical and mathematical modelling techniques. The team concluded that were no differences between the RNA present in the paediatric samples compared with the adult.

The team then focused specifically on 20 RNA sequences that they have previously deemed targetable with treatments. Again, they concluded that there were no differences in the presence of these targets between age groups.

This exciting news means that in the future, identification of targeted therapies and implementation of these into the clinic may be relevant for both children and adults.

In turn, this means recent and future findings will be of benefit to a larger group of patients. This is a great example of the wide impact our funded research can have on our community.