New research could speed up medulloblastoma diagnosis

2 min read

New research could see children receive an accurate brain tumour diagnosis in as little as 10 minutes.

Medulloblastoma is the most common high-grade paediatric brain tumour, affecting around 52 children every year in the UK according to Cancer Research UK (CRUK).

There are four main groups of medulloblastoma. Currently, patients have to undergo surgery so that a biopsy can be taken to classify their tumour and determine the prognosis and course of treatment.

In a study funded by Children with Cancer UK, CRUK and Children’s Cancer North, scientists at Birmingham University have accurately identified the chemical signature of each type of tumour using MRI scans. A team of researchers took 86 tumour samples and used laboratory tests to identify chemical markers for each type of tumour.

The study published in eBiomedicine found that, using MRI scanners with artificial intelligence, it was possible to identify the tumour without the need for a biopsy.

Dr Karen Noble, our Director of Research, Policy and Innovation, said: “Currently, children can wait approximately four weeks for a full diagnosis. By removing the need for biopsy and subsequent profiling, this simple imaging test could drastically reduce the current wait times, meaning children are diagnosed sooner and can start on the best course of treatment quicker.

“Understanding chemical markers in the different groups of medulloblastoma could also support work to find new, targeted treatments. This complements work we are funding at our Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University of London where researchers are also making promising steps towards kinder therapeutics for children diagnosed with this type of tumour.”

Current treatments for medulloblastoma can cause lifelong side effects and researchers at our Queen Mary Centre are investigating a specific genetic difference that occurs in the tumour to develop novel, kinder therapeutics with fewer side effects for patients. Working with the most common type of medulloblastoma (group 4), Dr Sara Badodi and her team are looking to understand how a combination of deregulated proteins is linked with poorer prognosis and find repurposed drugs to target this vulnerability. Read more here.

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