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04
Oct
2017

Study finds 10 diseases in childhood gliomas, proving less aggressive under new treatment.

 Image of the BRAF mutation, a mutation in the genes of less agressive tumours.

A major new study has found that deadly high-grade gliomas diagnosed in children contain 10 different diseases, which should each be treated based on their genetic faults.

Scientists from the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in London have confirmed that personalising care for the variations of gliomas is likely to be much more effective than categorising them all as one.

It was determined in the world-leading study that some types of gliomas are far more treatable than others using drugs that are currently being developed, or are already on the market.

The research gathered data from over 1,000 samples of children and young adults up to the age of 30 with high-grade glioblastoma or diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). Although rare, these are the largest cause of cancer-related deaths in people under 19 years of age, evident in a poor survival rate, which generally spans 9-15 months.

Many of the children had mutations in their tumours that can be targeted by existing medication for adult cancers. This demonstrates the benefit of testing children for genetic mutations in their tumours at the point of diagnosis.

One of the key findings from the study determined that some children’s cancers were driven by the formation of two mutated genes. Other children had tens of thousands of genetic errors, which are among the highest number of mutations in any human cancer. 

Tumours with mutations in the gene, known as BRAF, were found to be less aggressive than other cancers, and shouldn’t be classified as ‘high-grade’. This is due to the vulnerability these tumours display when subjected to adult medication that targets BRAF mutations. 

Study leader Chris Jones, Professor of Childhood Brain Tumour Biology at the ICR, was pleaded by of the amount of new information on children’s brain cancers the study had uncovered.

“It’s exciting that several types (of cancers) look like they could be clearly treatable using either existing drugs on the market or other treatments under development.

“We found that tumours that have historically been lumped together under one diagnosis are in fact comprised of many, remarkably different, diseases.”

Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of the ICR, highlighted the importance of continuing to target treatments for childhood brain cancer as being a vital step forward.

“A diagnosis with one of these high-grade brain tumours in children is devastating for their families. We desperately needed to understand the biology of the diseases better if we are ever to find ways of treating them effectively.”

The data produced by this study, which was primarily funded by the ICR in conjunction with many different charitable funders, is now considered as the definitive dataset on high-grade glioblastoma and DIPG.

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