Friday, October 10, 2014

Discovery Could Prevent Development of Brain Tumors in Children

News Brief by Steven Hefter

Medulloblastoma is an extremely dangerous condition, and ranks as among the leading causes of cancer-related mortality in children.  It is also the most common brain tumor found in children.  The current treatments for this fatal disease include surgery and different forms of radiation.  Even though most of the children who undergo these treatment methods survive, their normal brain cells are affected by the radiation and suffer from long-term damage.

Luckily, scientists at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal (IRCM) have discovered the biological cause of medulloblastoma.  The team of scientists headed by Dr. Frédéric Charron, PhD, found that the incidence of medulloblastoma can be heavily reduced if the protein Boc is inactivated.  Boc is a receptor protein located on the cell surface, and its role is to detect a protein called Sonic Hedgehog.  Sonic Hedgehog is the main cause of the cancer because it plays an important role in the process that converts normal cells to cancer cells, known as tumorigenesis.

Dr. Charron and his team found that Sonic Hedgehog would not be able to aid tumorigenesis without Boc.  Boc itself leads to DNA mutations in tumor cells, which increases the chance of pre-cancerous lesions to develop into more serious and terminal medulloblastoma.  Furthermore, it has been studied that Boc plays a vital role in the growth of the cerebellum, which is where medulobladtoma occurs.

A co-first author of the study, Frederic Mille, PhD, stated that when Boc is no longer active, the number of tumors developed decreased 66%.  This breakthrough might help healthcare providers in identifying the cancer early to prevent children from having to undergo damaging and costly treatments.

Institut de recherches cliniques de Montreal. "Discovery could prevent development of brain tumors in children." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 October 2014. .
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