Precision medicine can be used to treat pediatric brain cancer: Study

Advancements in precision medicine make it the preferred choice to treat pediatric brain cancers.

By Amy Wallace   |   Jan. 19, 2017 at 9:58 AM
Researchers at Dana Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorder Center are using precision treatment to treat pediatric brain tumors. Photo by sfam_photo/Shutterstock
Jan. 19 (UPI) — In the largest study of its kind, researchers found that precision medicine can be successful at targeting genetic abnormalities in pediatric brain cancer.

Researchers at the Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center are studying the potential use of precision medicine to treat brain tumors in pediatric patients.

Clinical tests were performed on 203 brain tumor samples and showed that a majority had genetic irregularities that can influence how the cancer was diagnosed and treated.

“Although there had been a great deal of progress over the past 30 years in improving survival rates for children with cancer, advances in pediatric brain cancer haven’t been as dramatic,” Pratiti Bandopadhayay, Ph.D., of Dana Farber/Boston Children’s and co-lead author of the study, said in a press release. “In a recent study, brain tumors accounted for 25 percent of all pediatric deaths attributed to cancer. In addition, many of the current therapies can result in long-term difficulties in cognitive or physical functioning.”

The study was the largest sample of pediatric brain tumors to be genetically profiled and Dana Farber/Boston Children’s is one of a handful of centers in the United States to analyze pediatric brain tumor genetics.

Researchers analyzed 117 of the brain tumor samples using OncoPanel testing, which sequences the exomes, or sections of DNA that contain the blueprints for making cell proteins, looking for 300 cancer-related genes.

The researchers also studied 146 samples using OnoCopy, which looks at how many copies of genes are missing or overabundant in tumor cells.

Results showed that 56 percent of the samples had genetic abnormalities, which could impact a patient’s diagnosis and could be targeted for treatment with specific drugs.

“The importance of genomic profiling in the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric brain cancers is reflected in the World Health Organization’s recent decision to classify such tumors by the genetic alterations within them, rather than by broad tumor type,” Dr. Susan Chi, co-senior author of the study, said in a press release. “Targeted therapies are likely to be most effective when they’re matched to specific abnormalities within tumor cells. Our findings show that precision medicine for pediatric brain tumors can now be a reality.”

The study was published in Neuro-Oncology.

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