Decoding Childhood Brain Cancer

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)– Childhood brain tumors have fewer genetic mutations than adult tumors, reports a new genomic analysis of medulloblastoma, a brain tumor that mainly affects children.

Identifying recurrent genetic changes in human tumors can shed light onto how tumors of a given type arise, and ideally spur new ideas for effective therapies. To date, this “cancer genomics” strategy has been applied only to adult cancers. Now, D. Williams Parsons and colleagues catalogue the genetic alterations present in medulloblastoma, the most common malignant central nervous system tumor of childhood. These tumors are located in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance and other complex motor functions.

Scientists aren’t sure what causes the development of medulloblastomas, but current research is focusing on understanding some of the possible genetic pathways that may be involved. In this study, the researchers analyzed eighty-eight childhood tumors, and found that there were 5-10 times fewer genetic alterations in these tumors as compared with solid tumors that typically affect adults.

Among the most frequently mutated genes were two coding for enzymes that methylate histones (the proteins that DNA winds itself around in the nucleus) as well as genes affecting signaling pathways critical for normal brain development.