Scientist locate potential “breakthrough” in fatal childhood cancer

By Caribbean Medical News Staff

Referring to their discovery as a “developmental pathway” scientists say they may have potentially found a treatment for a fatal childhood cancer. They are referring to a deadly brain cancer with embryonic tumors with rosettes. This type of brain cancer is known to be always fatal.

“We undertook this study because we wanted to learn what was driving the growth of these tumors and how best to treat them,”  said Dr. Nada Jabado, hemato-oncologist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital of the MUHC and an associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at McGill University.  Jabado is co-principal investigator of the study.

According to the researchers, these tumors are known as embryonal tumors with neuropil and true rosettes (ETANTR) and are rare enough to be found only in children under the age of four.

They said that they have found an enzyme which will possibly assist in treating children with the disease. The cancer is highly aggressive and always fatal.

The investigators said that their findings suggest that DNMT3B provides a potential source for new therapies to address and treat ETMR/ETANTR. The authors further stated that their follow up investigations will determine whether production of the enzyme can be controlled within the tumour and stop its growth.

Dr. Annie Huang, a brain tumor specialist at SickKids, led a research group in 2009 that initially discovered that several forms of deadly brain tumors in young children were ETMR/ETANTR. She said that the study “provided opportunities to take our initial discovery of this entity closer to finding innovative treatments for this disease, which we believe is an important, yet under-recognized, infantile brain tumor.”

The authors studied five large public data sets examining young patients with ETMR/ETANTR.  During their studies, the authors found that during the development of the tumour, they “identified” an “embryo” which they refer to as a “developmental pathway” and by way of subverting it, an enzyme known as DNMT3B developed in large quantities. According to the researchers, forms of this particular enzyme have also been found in other cancers including breast cancer and leukemia. These cancers are also aggressive.

The study was published in the journal Nature Genetics and included lead researchers from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC), the McGill University and Génome Québec Innovation Centre and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Canada.


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