A new method of treating childhood brain tumours, aimed at reducing the risk of damage to normal tissue, is to be trialled at hospitals around the US. Researchers will enrol 50 children suffering from medulloblastoma - the most common malignant childhood brain tumour - who will be treated with lower radiation and increased chemotherapy doses than those currently used.
In the US, about 500 children are diagnosed with this curable condition each year. In the early 1990s, the standard treatment was to apply a dose of 3,600 cGy or rads (units of radiation) to the whole brain and spine, with higher doses to the cerebellum. However, most patients suffered severe neurological impairment in addition to tumour eradication.
The current US treatment protocol administers a dose of 2,340 cGy, supplemented with several rounds of chemotherapy. Despite increases in survival rates in the last five years, this method still causes patients a degree of neurological impairment.
The US trial is designed to test whether 1,800 cGy, combined with one extra round of chemotherapy, will successfully eradicate the tumour without damaging the surrounding brain tissue. The researchers believe that this new method could prove to be a breakthrough in the treatment of medulloblastoma.