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Genome analysis of brain tumors showing the way to new treatment strategies
Date:7/26/2012

Brain tumors are the primary cause of cancer mortality in children. Even if a cure is possible, young patients often suffer from the stressful treatment which can be harmful to the developing brain. The most common childhood brain tumors are medulloblastoma and pylocytic astrocytoma.

In order to find new target structures for more gentle treatment methods, cancer researchers are systematically analyzing all changes in the genetic material of such tumors. This is the mission of the PedBrain consortium, which was launched in 2010 as the first German part in the International Cancer Genome Consortium (ICGC). The PedBrain Tumor network, which is coordinated by Professor Peter Lichter of DKFZ and Professor Roland Eils (DKFZ and Heidelberg University), has now published, jointly with numerous collaboration partners, an evaluation of the first 125 genome analyses of medulloblastomas.

"We can already see great differences in the genomes of medulloblastomas from one patient to the next," says Peter Lichter. "But we have also identified a number of frequent and characteristic genomic alterations that may lead the way to developing new methods of diagnosis and treatment."

Brain tumors with four sets of chromosomes are particularly aggressive

A high percentage of medulloblastomas particularly among those with very malignant progression has four sets of chromosomes instead of two as normal. Medulloblastomas are classified into four groups according to aggressiveness. In the study, about half of tumors belonging to groups 3 and 4, which are very difficult to treat, were found to have this aberration. "It is not proven that the extra chromosomes cause cancer. But it is certain that they occur at a very early stage of the cancerous process," Lichter explains.

Cells with four sets of chromosomes have been found in several types of cancer. However, this genomic aberration also offers a chance of specifically attacking tu
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Contact: Dr. Sibylle Kohlstdt
s.kohlstaedt@dkfz.de
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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