Friday, February 17, 2012

Toronto doctors push new way to treat children's brain cancer ...

Doctors at Toronto?s Hospital for Sick Children say they may have uncovered a more effective way of treating children?s brain cancer.

Children may require at least two types of therapy to effectively target the primary tumour, thwarting conventional wisdom that treatment of all cancer cells be combined together, according to new research from the hospital.

The study was published in Wednesday?s online edition of the science journal Nature.

A research team led by Dr. Michael D. Taylor, a SickKids neurosurgeon, found that if medulloblastoma ??? a form of pediatric brain cancer ??? spreads, genetic markers in the main tumour mass are different from metastasized (already spread) cancer cells. Standard treatment has been based upon the assumption that the main tumour mass is very similar, if not identical, to the metastasized cancer cells.

Doctors have been treating the main tumour mass with the belief that this would impact all of the disease sites. However, as the new study found that markers of the main tumour may be ?missing entirely? from the metastasized cells, the tumour may be left untreated.

Taylor said uncovering the ?two-part genetic profile? explains why some children are not affected by aggressive forms of brain cancer treatment.

This discovery could mean that some children need separate therapies for the primary tumour and the other cancer cells.

?Now that we know we are treating a single cancer with two distinct populations, each with their own distinct genetic profiles, we can work on developing treatment plans that will kill the cancer cells in both the primary and the metastatic tumours,? Taylor said. ?In the future, these treatments could increase survival rates, decrease the damage done by treatment, and improve quality of life for affected children.?

Medulloblastoma is a common malignant pediatric brain tumour. The survival rate is 60 per cent, however children ?are disabled by the harsh treatments? of radiation and high-dose chemotherapy of the developing brain and spinal cord, which can cause permanent damage to their nervous system, SickKids noted in a statement.

Researchers found that instead of random cell movement, the cancer spread through a small set of ?elite? cells that can escape the primary tumour to spread to new sites on the spinal cord or brain.

Treating these malignant elite cells could be an ?effective strategy? to treat children with brain cancer, according to the study.

?This exciting research will lead to different directions in treatment so doctors can find more effective and less toxic ways to treat these children, so this is very promising news,? said Dr. Christine Williams of the Canadian Cancer Society.

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