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Medulloblastoma Study Reveals New Subtypes of Malignant Childhood Brain Tumor


A new study published in Nature has uncovered a series of previously undiscovered medulloblastoma subtypes. The results of this latest research, which are detailed in “The whole-genome landscape of medulloblastoma subtypes,” are expected to help advance new treatments for this highly malignant brain tumor that predominantly occurs in childhood.

While today’s scientists recognize the need for less toxic, molecularly targeted treatment strategies, previous studies have been unable to identify the full spectrum of genes and processes that operate in medulloblastoma subgroups.

Through highly collaborative efforts, researchers applied comprehensive, integrative genomics that generated a rich dataset for medulloblastoma and led to the discovery of new candidate “driver” genes for this disease. The genomic dataset was derived from more powerful analyses than previous studies and effectively splits this diagnosis into subtypes within the four well recognized core subgroups. Also, findings particularly enhanced knowledge of the biology underlying Group 3 and Group 4 medulloblastoma, generally less clearly understood compared to the WNT and SHH subgroups.

“A global collaboration has now used genome wide sequencing to study the genome of the childhood brain tumor known as medulloblastoma, with the goal of identifying targets that are mutated in the tumors, but not in the children, so that novel, more effective and less toxic therapies can be developed,” says Michael Taylor, MD, PhD, FRCS(C) of The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. “This is one of the largest sequencing efforts on a single type of human cancer, and is particularly large for study of a childhood cancer.”

Dr. Taylor is a senior author and co-leader of the study and is supported by the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation.

This rigorous study was conducted on tumor and normal tissue samples from newly diagnosed patients, ranging in age from 1 month to 50 years (median age = 8 years) and embodies a scientific resource for ongoing and future investigations to resolve the causes and origins of medulloblastoma.

Read more about the study results in Nature.