According to Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News, researchers recently discovered a potential therapy for patients with aggressive subtypes of medulloblastoma. There are four subtypes of this condition. The first is rarely lethal, barely spreads, and often has positive patient outcomes. However, the latter three subtypes are often aggressive, quick to spread, and fairly lethal (20-30%). Apparently, this has to do with how the Wnt pathway is activated in the first group. Typically, the Wnt pathway plays a role in tissue and organ development. Additionally, in some cases, the Wnt pathway promotes cancerous development. However, in medulloblastoma, researchers believe it to be tumor suppressing.
As a result, researchers hypothesized that activating the Wnt pathway in patients with non-Wnt medulloblastoma could provide some treatment assistance. First, researchers genetically sequenced brain tumor stem cells in patients within the latter three groups. They found that benign tumors were formed by active Wnt cells, while aggressive metastatic tumors formed from inactive Wnt cells.
Next, researchers tested a molecule that activates the Wnt pathway on mice models of the cancer. They discovered that this reduced tumor growth and also extended survival rates. Finally, researchers believe that further exploring this molecule could provide more targeted therapies and treatment options for patients with aggressive medulloblastoma.
See their full findings in Nature Communications.
There are no clear causes of medulloblastoma, or cerebellar primitive neuroectodermal tumor (PNET). This cancerous tumor forms in the brain’s posterior fossa region. However, in many cases, medulloblastoma spreads throughout the brain and spinal cord. Typically, this is the most common brain tumor in males under 16 years old. In fact, it makes up around 20% of all childhood brain tumors.
- Balance problems
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe headaches
- Changes in vision and handwriting
- Back pain
- Poor bladder and bowel control
- Hearing loss
Learn more about medulloblastoma.