New weakness found in most common childhood malignant brain tumor

December 5, 2017, Queen Mary, University of London

A new weakness found in medulloblastoma, the most common form of childhood brain tumour, could lead to more personalised medicine and improved treatment for some patients, according to an early study by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), funded by the Medical Research Council and Brain Tumour Research.

Current treatments for medulloblastoma include a combination of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy which are not specific in how they target the , and often lead to significant side effects, such as mental and physical disabilities.

Treatment is further complicated by the fact that medulloblastoma is not a single disease but classified into subgroups with different prognosis and survival. Little is known about the most aggressive and most common form of the disease, and better knowledge on how to identify and treat those could improve prognosis.

Lead researcher Professor Silvia Marino from QMUL said: "We've identified a new weakness in a subgroup of aggressive medulloblastomas, which potentially means that they could be susceptible to drugs which we did not know could be used to treat this type of cancer.

"Those drugs are already being tested in clinical trials for other tumours, so if we're able to confirm their efficacy in medulloblastoma patients, they could be brought in as treatments quicker than if we would have to develop a new ."

Dr Kieran Breen, Director of Research, Brain Tumour Research, said: "Brain tumours are the largest cause of cancer deaths for those under the age of 40, yet there are still very few effective treatments available and not everybody will respond to these. We need more effective and targeted drugs. The results from this study will allow for the identification of tumour subtypes which we can target with individual agents and ultimately increase the survival rate for people with this type of tumour."

The research, published in Cell Reports, used mouse models and human cells derived from medulloblastoma tissue samples to look at the levels of two proteins, known as BMI1 and CHD7, in these tumours.

The team found that high levels of BMI1 in combination with low levels of CHD7 were associated with a poor prognosis in aggressive human medulloblastoma and that this was due to overactivation of a pathway which controls and division.

The results mean that these two protein levels could be used as biomarkers for identifying which patients may benefit from drugs that inhibit this pathway.

The findings could also be used to develop new therapies for patients with this subgroup of . BMI1 is a highly druggable molecule, so drugs could be identified that are able to inhibit BMI1, and prevent the high BMI1 levels seen in the aggressive form of the tumour.

The researchers caution that further research and in humans will be needed before confirming these drugs' potential.

Explore further: Brain tumour's 'addiction' to common amino acid could be its weakness

More information: 'Convergence of BMI1 and CHD7 on ERK signalling in medulloblastoma.' Badodi, Sara et al. Cell Reports. DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.11.021 ,

Related Stories

Brain tumour's 'addiction' to common amino acid could be its weakness

November 1, 2017
Starving a childhood brain tumour of the amino acid glutamine could improve the effect of chemotherapy, according to an early study led by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and funded by Children with Cancer UK and the ...

Potential treatment for brain cancer as drug shrinks tumours

August 14, 2017
An international team of researchers has found a drug previously approved to treat breast cancer could also be used to shrink medulloblastoma, a common form of childhood brain tumour.

Brain cancer breakthrough could provide better treatment

September 19, 2017
A new discovery about the most common type of childhood brain cancer could transform treatment for young patients by enabling doctors to give the most effective therapies.

Scientists map out how childhood brain tumors relapse

December 18, 2014
Researchers have discovered the unique genetic paths that the childhood brain tumour medulloblastoma follows when the disease comes back, according to research published in Cancer Cell today.

New insight into life-threatening childhood brain cancer

May 22, 2017
The most common type of malignant childhood brain cancer has been identified as seven separate conditions each needing a different treatment, new research has revealed.

Scientists exploit leaks in blood brain barrier to treat glioblastoma

November 6, 2017
An ovarian cancer drug can leak through the blood brain barrier to reach brain tumours and could be an effective treatment for glioblastoma, suggest results presented at the National Cancer Research Institute's (NCRI) Cancer ...

Recommended for you

Metastatic lymph nodes can be the source of distant metastases in mouse models of cancer

March 22, 2018
A study by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) investigators finds that, in mouse models, cancer cells from metastatic lymph nodes can escape into the circulation by invading nodal blood vessels, leading to the development ...

Researchers examine role of fluid flow in ovarian cancer progression

March 22, 2018
New research from Virginia Tech is moving physicians closer to pinpointing a predictor of ovarian cancer, which could lead to earlier diagnosis of what is know as the "silent killer."

Could a pap test spot more than just cervical cancer?

March 22, 2018
Pap tests have helped drive down rates of cervical cancer, and a new study suggests they also could be used to detect other gynecologic cancers early.

Probing RNA epigenetics and chromatin structures to predict drug resistance in leukemia

March 22, 2018
Drug resistance is a major obstacle to effective treatment for patients with cancer and leukemia. Epigenetic modifying drugs have been proven effective for some patients with hematologic malignancies, such as myelodysplastic ...

Researchers identify compound to prevent breast cancer cells from activating in brain

March 22, 2018
Researchers at Houston Methodist used computer modeling to find an existing investigational drug compound for leukemia patients to treat triple negative breast cancer once it spreads to the brain.

Gene-based test for urine detects, monitors bladder cancer

March 22, 2018
Researchers at The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center have developed a test for urine, gathered during a routine procedure, to detect DNA mutations identified with urothelial cancers.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.