Medulloblastoma - new models may be key to new treatments

Developing new models to analyse the genetic makeup of aggressive Group Three subtype medulloblastomas.

Researchers at Newcastle University will develop new models of an aggressive type of medulloblastoma to discover new drug targets and improve patient outcomes.

Medulloblastoma is a common childhood brain tumour. Although a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy can successfully treat most patients, 40% of children affected will not survive: new treatments for this tumour type are therefore urgently needed.

Professor Clifford and his team will use molecular biology techniques to analyse the genetic make up of an aggressive subtype of medulloblastoma, known as Group Three, which is difficult to treat. This will help the researchers identify genetic properties that distinguish Group Three from other subtypes of medulloblastoma.

The team will also create models, using human cells and animals, which will be used to determine whether any of the distinguishing features identified in the Group Three samples are linked to tumour development and are thus a potential new drug target.

There are four different subtypes of medulloblastoma – WNT, SHH, Group Three and Group Four - each with different properties and different patient outcomes. The biological properties of the WNT and SHH subgroups are well understood, however little is known about Group Three, the most aggressive form with the worst prognosis. Understanding the mechanisms behind Group Three medulloblastoma may lead to the development of much-needed new drugs.

Project information

Formal title: Identification of medulloblastoma driver events and therapeutic targets using cross-species genomics

Key Researcher: Professor Steven Clifford, Newcastle University

Tumour type: Medulloblastoma

Research type: Drug target discovery

Timing: Granted in March 2013 for three years