A novel discovery that may help lead to more accurate diagnosis of childhood brain cancers has been made by Scientists at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) at the University of Utah.
Brain cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in children.
"Researchers already know cancerous tumors often lack certain copies of genes. They also know certain cancer-promoting genes are mutated in cancer patients," said Dr Joshua Schiffman, an HCI investigator.
"But what's significant about this new research is that we've shown these two events occur simultaneously in a unique set of pediatric brain tumors ? a finding previously unknown in these pediatric patients," Schiffman added.
During the study, researchers analysed the tumours of pediatric brain cancer patients and classified into grades 1-4 at the time of diagnosis based on their appearance under the microscope.
They looked at either missing copies or extra copies of DNA. They also looked for mutations, or changes, in the DNA from the same brain tumor samples that can cause improper functioning of genes resulting in cancer.
Researchers discovered genetic differences in the different tumor grades that may help explain tumor development and could lead to more accurate diagnosis and categorization of patients.
While more research is needed, Schiffman believes these findings can eventually lead to more targeted and individualized treatments.
"A lot of progress has been made in our understanding of adult brain cancers, but we don't know as much about the genetics of pediatric brain cancers, which are the number one cancer killer of children," says Schiffman.
"This information sheds new light in an area where little information was known. The ability to recognize unique subsets of tumors based on their genetic make-up could someday lead the way to more individualized treatments for pediatric brain cancers," Schiffman added.
The study is published online in the journal Cancer Research.