Scientists from the Children's Brain Tumour Research Centre at The University of Nottingham have found three genes associated with specific characteristics of ependymoma, which is the third most common form of childhood brain cancer.
Till now, not much was known about the biology behind this disease, but the results of this study have given an insight into the genetics behind ependymoma, which could help scientists develop targeted drugs to treat the disease more successfully, and with fewer side effects.
In total, three fourth of children with cancer in the UK can be successfully treated, but survival for ependymoma is just 50 per cent. Almost half the children who are initially successfully treated will suffer a relapse of the disease.
"Understanding the biological causes of cancer is vitally important as it will help us to develop drugs that target abnormal genes in cancer cells but not in healthy cells, which is what traditional chemotherapy treatments do. More accurately targeted treatments will cause fewer side-effects than conventional chemotherapy and be more effective. So this is an important finding which we hope will lead to the development of new treatments for ependymoma," said lead author Professor Richard Grundy from the Children's Brain Tumour Research Centre at The University of Nottingham.
For their study, the researchers analysed the genome wide expression pattern of ependymoma and identified three genes with distinct profiles. They confirmed the involvement of these different genes in 74 samples of ependymoma.
They deduced that a gene called SI00A4 was strongly associated with tumours in very young children. SI00A6 was a marker of a tumour in a specific part of the brain and high levels of CHI3L1 were common in cancers showing a larger degree of cell death.
All the discovered genes were located on a section of Chromosome 1 that this research group had previously linked to poor survival for ependymomas.
"We hope our findings will lead to a more detailed understanding of ependymoma. This is crucial if we are to ensure each child receives the most appropriate treatment for their disease and that we reduce the number of children in which their cancer recurs," added Professor Grundy.
The study is published in the British Journal of Cancer.