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09
Nov
2018

Researchers identify marker to tailor treatment dosage for childhood brain cancer

 
The study hopes to personalise treatments by distinguishing those who could benefit from aggressive treatment regiments.

A collaborative of European researchers have identified a chromosomal signature that could be used to tailor treatment regimens for children diagnosed with medulloblastoma, the most common malignant childhood brain cancer.

Currently, all children with the disease receive the same treatment. This study, published in The Lancet Oncology, hopes to personalise treatments by distinguishing those who could benefit from aggressive treatment regiments, from those who may respond to lower doses of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

UK researchers from Newcastle University and Northumbria University, in collaboration with the University of Bonn, Germany, analysed the data from a previous clinical trial of 338 patients with standard-risk (non-WNT/non-SHH) medulloblastoma. They found a specific chromosome signature, a marker that separates patients into two distinct populations.

Those with the chromosome signature were found to have near 100% survival rates and were classified as low-risk. Patients without the chromosome signature had a survival rate of just 60%, classified as high-risk. 

Dr Ed Schwalbe from Northumbria University said, “Looking forward, we hope that children whose tumours have this signature could be treated less aggressively, reducing the life-long side effects of the gruelling treatment, while maintaining a cure.” 

“Our findings provide a new blueprint for the personalisation of treatment in medulloblastoma so that all children are not given the same intensity of therapy,” says study lead Professor Steve Clifford. “This study shows that low-risk patients may receive kinder treatments aimed at reducing toxicity and side effects, while targeting more intensive treatments to the high-risk patients who need it most.

“Through a greater understanding of brain tumours we hope to increase the cure rate but critically, for those children who survive, we want to make sure their quality of life is good after treatment”, said Professor Clifford.

Although the tests used to identify the risk profiles could be implemented immediately, Professor Clifford added that the results of their study would first need to be validated before the tests and any changes to treatment regimens are introduced to the clinic. 

These further studies will also need to ensure that reduced doses do not compromise treatment outcomes, finding a balance between maintaining effective treatment whilst limiting unnecessary dosage toxicities to children with the disease.

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