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03
Apr
2020

Babies with brain cancer could be spared chemotherapy thanks to a promising new discovery

Professor Chris Jones

The study, the largest of its kind, focused on infant gliomas – a common and deadly form of brain cancer with a five-year survival rate of just 20 per cent. It profiled 241 young children from around the globe and found that while these tumours look similar to gliomas in older age groups, molecularly they’re very different. This may explain why they’re usually less aggressive and these molecular weaknesses make them susceptible to existing targeted drugs.

Professor Jones said, “Our study offers the biological evidence to pick out those infants who are likely to have a better outcome from their disease, so these very small children and their families can be spared the harmful effects of chemotherapy.

“We showed that brain tumours in infants have particular genetic weaknesses that could be targeted with existing drugs – and clinical trials are planned to test the benefit of these precision medicines as a first-line treatment in clinical trials as soon as possible.” 

The researchers also looked at mice with brain tumours caused by the same weaknesses to compare the effect of a drug called lorlatinib.

They found that lorlatinib significantly shrank tumours in seven out of eight mice, while tumours in mice given chemotherapy kept growing, albeit at a slower rate.

A small number of children whose tumours were analysed in the study were successfully treated with the targeting drugs.

The new results are also set to change the World Health Organization’s diagnostic guidelines, with brain tumours in infants to be classed separately from other childhood brain tumours.

Cure Brain Cancer Foundation has supported the brilliant work of Professor Jones for many years via the DIPG Collaborative – a global network of more than 30 brain cancer organisations, of which Cure Brain Cancer Foundation is a founding member. In the last five years The DIPG Collaborative has invested more than $7 million into finding treatments for deadly paediatric brain cancers.

In August last year Cure Brain Cancer Foundation co-hosted the DIPG Collaborative Symposium in Sydney with The Cure Starts Now Australia. It was the first time this important meeting of paediatric brain cancer experts was held outside the US and Professor Chris Jones was a keynote speaker.

Professor Jones thanked Cure Brain Cancer Foundation and The Cure Starts Now Australia for their ongoing support and for backing the DIPG Symposium saying, “It’s inspiring to hear from all the other researchers and clinicians and to look for areas where we can work together. It brings together such a huge resource of clinical data and genomic data, linking together various registries. It provides a huge network to understand this terrible disease better.”

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