Scientists have discovered why a curable type of children's brain tumor is so responsive to chemotherapy -- paving the way to improve treatment of tumors that are harder to tackle, according to research by a Cancer Research UK scientist published in Cancer Cell.
This study shows that a curable type of brain tumor in children -- called WNT medulloblastoma -- grows 'leaky' blood vessels that allow much higher than normal levels of chemotherapy drugs to reach the cancer cells.
Healthy blood vessels in the brain can filter potentially damaging molecules and prevent them from reaching brain tissue. But this can also restricts drugs from reaching tumor cells in the brain.
But in a tumor with leaky blood vessels, like certain types of medulloblastoma, these molecules cannot be kept out.
Understanding why curable tumors are easier to treat could help find more effective treatments for less curable types of medulloblastoma. For these patients, researchers think they might be able to turn this barrier off and make the tumors more responsive to chemotherapy.
Professor Richard Gilbertson, lead author who has recently joined Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Institute, said: "This research is exciting because it means that as well as finding kinder treatments for a curable type of brain tumor, we may also be able to manipulate brain tumors that are difficult to treat successfully to make them more responsive to treatment.
"This could make chemotherapy even more effective and reduce the amount of radiation that we give to children. This would mean fewer long term side effects for children later in life which is something we're always working towards."
Professor Pamela Kearns, Cancer Research UK's children's cancers expert, said: "This research gives us valuable insight into why some brain tumors respond better to chemotherapy than others. While cancer survival overall has doubled over the past 40 years, treatments for brain tumors have seen much slower progress. And brain tumors in children remain a major challenge.
"Cancer Research UK have made these challenges areas of priority and set up a specific Kids & Teens campaign to increase the investment in research focussed on children's cancers. More research is needed to help us find ways to diagnose and treat the disease earlier and develop more effective treatments that have less of the long term side effects that can have a major impact throughout a child's adult life."
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