Scientists have identified certain genetic mutations, the most common of childhood brain cancers, to play a key role in medulloblastoma.
The team led by Dr. Michael Taylor, a pediatric brain surgeon at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, has found eight similar genes linked to the childhood brain cancer.
"When these eight genes are functioning normally, we believe their role is to make a protein which tells the developing brain when it's time to stop growing. But when the genes are mutated, the brain may continue to grow out of control, leading to cancer," Nature magazine quoted Dr. Taylor as saying.
"Drugs are already being developed that target these types of proteins.
"Our hope is that some of these drugs may be adapted and used effectively to treat medulloblastomas," he added.
During the study, the researchers looked at more than 200 tumor samples.
Paul Northcott, a PhD student in Dr Taylor's lab, analyzed and interpreted all the data over a period of 3 1/2 years.
"We've learned more from this study about the genetic basis of this disease than from any other previous study," said Northcott.
The gene mutations they found had not been suspected as culprits in cancer formation.
The findings have been published in journal Nature Genetics.