Study sheds light on role of stem cells in children's brain tumor

Jan 11, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- New research from scientists at Queen Mary, University of London shows how the most common type of children's brain cancer can arise from stem cells.

Scientists know relatively little about medulloblastomas or why some cases respond better to treatments than others.

The new research, published today in , shows that medulloblastomas can grow from a type of stem cell and that these cancers are a distinct form of the disease which may require a completely different approach to treatment.

Medulloblastomas account for one in five of all children's brain tumours. They are most common in children between the ages of three and eight but they can also affect young adults.

Silvia Marino, Professor of at Queen Mary, University of London, led the study. She said: "This type of can pose a great challenge to doctors. In some children, treatment works well but in others the cancer is aggressive and far harder to treat.

"As scientists we've been trying to understand how these cancers which look the same can behave so differently.

"This study is a major advance for us because it shows for the first time that some of these tumours develop from endogenous .

"This is important for two reasons. First, it could help us to tell which cancers will respond well to treatment and which will need a more aggressive therapy. Second, this new understanding could help us to find much-needed new drugs for the disease."

Previous research has shown that human brains contain a small number of stem cells - called - which enable the brain to repair itself to some degree. Professor Marino and her team studied equivalent cells taken from mouse brains.

They found that two particular called Rb and p53, which are already known to play a role in cancer, could malfunction in these cells and allow the cells to grow uncontrollably. They also found that in mice, these cells turned into medulloblastomas.

The researchers then looked more closely at the genetic makeup of these tumours and found a particular pattern which they compared with tumours taken from patients with medulloblastomas. They found that patients whose tumours also had this genetic pattern were those with the worst survival chances.

The researchers believe that their findings are a crucial first step in understanding the most aggressive form of this disease. They can now begin to look for new ways to tackle the disease in a more effective and possibly less toxic way.

Explore further: Study finds new potential melanoma drug target

More information: Cerebellar stem cells act as medulloblastoma-initiating cells in a mouse model and a neural stem cell signature characterizes a subset of human medulloblastomas, Sutter R, et al, Oncogene, 2010, 1-12

Related Stories

Cancer stem cells: know thine enemy

Dec 21, 2007

Stem cells -- popularly known as a source of biological rejuvenation -- may play harmful roles in the body, specifically in the growth and spread of cancer. Amongst the wildly dividing cells of a tumor, scientists have located ...

Recommended for you

Study finds new potential melanoma drug target

May 02, 2015

A new treatment for melanoma could be on the horizon, thanks to a finding by a UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center-led team. In the study, which was published online today in the journal Clinical Ca ...

Surgery for terminal cancer patients still common

May 02, 2015

The number of surgeries performed on terminally ill cancer patients has not dropped in recent years, despite more attention to the importance of less invasive care for these patients to relieve symptoms and ...

Study provides comprehensive look at brain cancer treatments

May 01, 2015

Led by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and UC San Francisco (UCSF), a comprehensive genetic review of treatment strategies for glioblastoma brain tumors was published today in the Oxford University Press ...

How artificial tanning can lead to melanoma

May 01, 2015

Young women may be up on the latest fashions and trends as they prepare for prom season. But what many don't know is that the tan that looks oh-so-good with their dress may be the first step toward skin cancer.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.