The appearance of brain tumours in children is usually a devastating event. To date, there are few specific and effective therapies for this disease, and the average survival of a child patient after diagnosis is no longer than one year.
Brain tumours in children are very different to those of adults and show special traits that can render adult treatments ineffective. For this reason, it is imperative to develop better diagnoses that identify the different features of each individual tumour. This will help us develop more specific and personalised therapies.
Professor Chris Jones’ Lab, at The Institute of Cancer Research (UK), works to identify genetic mutations in brain tumours that are characteristic of different cancer subtypes. By understanding more about the cascade of events which cause cancer cells to spiral out of control during the disease’s development, we can help clinicians to choose the appropriate therapy. We hope this will improve the outlook for children diagnosed with brain tumours.
One of their projects involves the validation of a genetic test that helps to differentiate each tumour subtype and their aggressiveness, a tool that would be of a great value for physicians while choosing the most effective therapy for each individual patient. The team is particularly interested in developing this test for fusion genes – a hybrid formed from two previously separate genes and which are known to drive the progression of childhood brain tumours. Once the test is designed, it will be validated with brain tumour samples from all over Europe.
This innovative approach will be a great tool to predict which patients will benefit from standard therapies and which of them need different and novel therapies.
Last Year Achievements:
Thanks to the support of the CRIS Cancer Foundation a new scientist joined the team early in 2016 and the group has attended prestigious meetings and conferences (e.g. the International Congress on Paediatric Neuro-Oncology). The group has initiated the extraction of the genetic material of more than 60 samples coming from several European hospitals. Preliminary analysis of these samples shows very promising results and indeed even the emergence of a new subtype of brain tumour with no known genetic overlap, seemingly driven by unique gene fusion events rather than the common mutations seen elsewhere. On top of this, in collaboration with the Royal Marsden Hospital, the group is fine-tuning the details of the potential tumour genetic test to incorporate testing for fusion genes.