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Molecular heterogeneity drives the clinical behaviour of childhood medulloblastoma

Principal Investigator:
  • Michael Taylor, The Hospital For Sick Children
  • Canadian Cancer Society

Project Overview

Brain cancer is the most common type of solid cancer in children in Canada, and medulloblastoma is the most common malignant brain cancer of childhood.  Children diagnosed with medulloblastoma are often left with long-term effects from the intensive treatment. Dr. Taylor is studying how different medulloblastomas vary one from another so that we can avoid over‑treating some children (which causes severe complications) and avoid under treating others (which can result in death).

Work from his team has previously shown that medulloblastoma is not really one disease, but in fact a collection of four very different diseases that look the same under the microscope but are clinically and biologically very different. This new classification is being adopted around the world, and has already had great impact on deciding how much therapy to give to children, and in the design of new clinical trials.

For this project, Dr. Taylor and his team aim to identify a way to predict the aggressiveness of these different cancer subtypes. He has gathered an unprecedented collection of tumour samples from 80 cities around the world. He and his team will study how different medulloblastomas vary from one another and how each tumour changes in response to treatment. This important work will help identify which children have high risk cancers requiring the most aggressive treatments, versus those who can receive a gentler treatment regimen.