Traditional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation have always been a trade-off: survival now, more cancer later. While many of these treatment regimens are effective at stopping various cancer’s progression, the genomic damage that they leave in their wake can often lead to new tumors years later. This is extremely problematic for children—whose bodies are still growing and are much more susceptible to the detrimental aspects of the drugs. This is particularly true for children with brain cancer, and researchers are working hard to find treatments that reduce side effects while remaining effective.
“Subjecting a developing child to chemotherapy and radiation of the head and spine can leave devastating long-term effects. Some children even become intellectually disabled as a result of the treatment, and aren’t able to go to college, live on their own, or achieve other important milestones,” says Robert Wechsler-Reya, PhD, senior author of a new paper discussing a novel therapeutic approach to treating pediatric brain tumors and director of the Tumor Initiation and Maintenance Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP). “Our lab is working to understand the genetic pathways that drive medulloblastoma so we can find better ways to intervene and treat tumors. This study shows that a personalized treatment based on a patient’s specific tumor type might be within our reach.”