Brain Cancer is Different in Children

August 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

Brain tumors are the chief cause of death for children with cancer in North America. Regardless of treatment, child Glioblastoma is a death sentence. Most children die within two years of diagnosis.

A study published the week of January 30th in the journal Nature reports that a major genetic breakthrough was made by an international research team, led by the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI MUHC), which could possibly change the way pediatricians understand and treat child brain cancer.

Glioblastoma is a fatal brain cancer that is unresponsive to both chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The research team identified two genetic mutations that are responsible for up to 40% of Glioblastomas in children. The two mutations were discovered to be responsible for DNA regulation. Researchers suggest this may explain why Glioblastoma is resistant to traditional therapies.

Researchers from the team from McGill University and Génome Québec Innovation Centre identified the two mutations in the gene histone H3.3. The gene is very important, as it guards genetic heritage and is the key to modulating the expression of genes. The mutation apparently prevents cells from differentiating normally and helps to protect the genetic information of the cancerous cells.

The team’s head investigator Dr. Nada Jabado, a hematologist-oncologist at The Montreal Children’s Hospital of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC), explains that this protective aspect makes it less sensitive to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She says of previous child brain cancer research, “we’ve been failing to hit the right spot. … It is clear now that Glioblastoma in children is due to different molecular mechanisms than those in adults, and should not be treated in the same way.” She is optimistic about being able to know where to focus future efforts to treat the cancer.

Dr. Jabado also believes that this finding is only the beginning. Improper management of this gene, which protects genetic information, has also been observed in other cancers such as colon, pancreatic, lymphoma and leukemia. Future research could therefore uncover better treatments for these cancers as well. Dr. Jabado declares that, “This is the irrefutable proof that our genome, if modified, can lead to cancer and probably other diseases.”

Marc Le Page, President and CEO of Génome Québec, confirmed that, “The outstanding contribution of experts in genomics and new sequencing technologies, made by the McGill University and Génome Québec Innovation Centre and as part of Dr. Jabado’s project, is further proof that genomics has become essential for development and innovation in medical research.” Dr. Morag Park, Scientific Director of the CIHR Institute of Cancer Research, also congratulated Dr. Jabado and her team on the results of these findings, claiming that, “Through research advancements like this, there is now greater emphasis on using genetic information to make medical decisions.”

 

Works Cited

“Genetic Breakthrough for Brain Cancer in Children”. (January 30, 2012). Neuroscience News. February 18, 2012. http://neurosciencenews.com/genetic-breakthrough-brain-cancer-children-gene-brain-tumor/.

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