Scientists create new test for aggressive childhood brain tumours

childhood brain tumours, medulloblastoma
© Punporn Aphaithong

The new test could single out childhood brain tumours which are “the most aggressive forms of medulloblastoma” – which would lead to a better, more specific treatment

Currently, only sophisticated, expensive tests from a few labs scattered around the globe can figure out which children have the most aggressive form of medulloblastoma. Obviously, this means that it is highly rare to get a specific diagnosis – one which can make the difference between life and death.

Why is a specific diagnosis so important?

Those with childhood brain tumours who know that they need radiation therapy, can access immediate radiation therapy. But if there is no path to knowing, then this becomes a dark gamble, created by lack of available testing mechanisms.

On the other hand, children with a less aggressive form of medulloblastoma end up with permanent learning, physical and emotional disabilities – after being exposed to fierce rounds of radiotherapy, for no reason.

Now, in a collaboration between the University of British Columbia (UBC) and BC Cancer, in partnership with BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute (BCCHR), a new test has been created for the aggressive childhood brain tumour.

Senior author, Dr Poul Sorensen, professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at UBC’s faculty of medicine, said: “With this new test, more doctors may one day be able to identify children with the most aggressive forms of medulloblastoma and better tailor treatment.”.

How does the new test work?

The new test uses an antibody-based technique called immunohistochemistry, which is widely available in clinical laboratories around the world.

“By using a technique that is available in virtually all clinical labs, our new test has the potential to improve the diagnosis and future treatment of medulloblastoma for children in almost every corner of the planet,” said the study lead author Dr Alberto Delaidelli, MD and UBC PhD candidate in Dr Sorensen’s lab.

How did the team figure this out?

The team looked at proteomics (which measures overall protein expression in tumour tissues) and transcriptomics (which measures overall gene expression in tumour tissues). Using this combined strategy, they found a protein called TPD52 that is highly expressed in the most aggressive medulloblastoma.

They then screened for the expression of this protein in approximately 400 medulloblastoma samples.

At this point, the team found that tumours where this protein was easily detectable meant the child was substantially more likely to display aggressive behaviour. They even found that this protein, TPD52,  increased the likelihood of cancer relapse.

When can this test be used?

Not yet.

Currently, the scientists behind this discovery are prepping for a clinical trial. Hopefully, they will create results that support this initial understanding of how the test works and how useful it can be for children across the globe.

Read the full study here.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here