Boston, Mass., July 22, 2012 Researchers at Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital Cancer Center (DF/CHCC) and several collaborating institutions have linked mutations in specific genes to each of the four recognized subtypes of medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumor of children. The discovery, reported July in the journal Nature, provides doctors with potential biomarkers for guiding and individualizing treatment and reveals prospective therapeutic opportunities for countering this devastating malignancy.
The study was conducted by a research team led by Scott Pomeroy, MD, PhD, Neurologist-in-Chief at Boston Children's Hospital and a neuro-oncologist at DF/CHCC; Yoon-Jae Cho, MD, formerly of Boston Children's and now at Stanford University School of Medicine; and Matthew Meyerson, MD, PhD, of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute.
Medulloblastomas occur in the cerebellum (the part of the brain that controls balance and other complex motor functions) and are treated with a combination of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Though overall survival hovers around 70 percent, most survivors are unable to live independently due to the lasting effects of both tumor and treatment.
Doctors have historically classified medulloblastoma patients as either standard or high risk based on biopsy results, but have long suspected that what we call medulloblastoma could actually be several different diseases. Over the last two years, studies by researchers including Pomeroy and his colleagues have bolstered this view by dividing medulloblastoma into four molecular subtypes based on gene expression profiles and copy number variations. Each subtype has a distinct survival rate, ranging from 20 to 90 percent.
"Not only do we now know how to stratify medulloblastomas genomically, we have a firm grasp of what gene mutations drive each molecular subtype," said Pomeroy, who has spent 20 years trying to understand
|Contact: Meghan Weber|
Children's Hospital Boston