11:46pm Sunday 31 May 2020

Global assault on childhood brain tumours gains momentum

Several researchers from The University of Western Australia are involved in the attack on the highly invasive tumour, Medulloblastoma (MB), a disease that affects one in five children who have brain tumours.

Leading the fight in Western Australia is Dr Nick Gottardo.  He is Head of Brain Tumour Research at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and a clinical senior lecturer in the University’s School of Paediatrics and Child Health.

The highly prestigious journal Acta Neuropathologica recently published findings from a ground-breaking gathering of international brain tumour oncologists, neurosurgeons and researchers who came together in Western Australia.

Dr Gottardo convened the symposium with visiting specialist Dr Amar Gajjar, Director of Neuro-Oncology Division, St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Memphis, USA and Chair of the Brain Tumour Committee of the Children’s Oncology Group, the largest international cooperative organisation in the world that treats children with cancer.

Funded by the Telethon Adventurers and supported by the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Medulloblastoma Down Under 2013 aimed to identify better ways of sharing knowledge about the biology of the disease, improved targeting of drug therapies and the development of new strategies to push past the limits that have already been reached by current day radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

A key outcome from the symposium focused on international consensus on how Medulloblastoma is classified.  The group agreed it should no longer be considered a single-disease but rather a disease with four sub-groups, each with its own distinct molecular make-up.

“This is a major step forward in how we can now tackle MB,” Dr Gottardo said.  “By having international agreement on the sub groups we can now focus on jointly and more effectively studying their characteristics and developing more targeted treatments and drugs.

“What’s most significant is the fact this action plan helps us achieve a much clearer understanding of what makes these tumours tick and if we can understand what makes them tick we can understand what makes them un-tick and then we can kill them.  This really is a massive step forward for us in allowing us to better understand the genetics of this disease.”

The group will now present their agreement to the upcoming fifth edition of the World Health Organisation’s classification of central nervous system tumours.

More plans to improve the ongoing research and treatment will be further discussed at next year’s meeting of the Medulloblastoma Working Group to be held in St Moritz in Switzerland in January.

In the meantime, the Telethon Adventurers, whose Founder and Chairman Rick Parish tragically lost his four year old son Elliot to Medulloblastoma in 2011, have put in place a central coordinator to help manage and further develop the global action plan. 

Professor Moira Clay will work with Dr Gottardo and other symposium participants to harness their collective knowledge and skills in battling this aggressive childhood disease.

Dr Nick Gottardo talking about the Medulloblastoma Down Under 2013 and the significant impact of the global action plan can be heard on YouTube.

Media references

Tammy Gibbs (TICHR Communications Manager)  (+61 8)  9489 7963  /  (+61 4) 08 946 698
Carole Kerr (TICHR Senior Communications Officer)  (+61 8)  9489 7966
UWA Public Affairs Media Team  (+61 8)  6488 7977  /  (+61 4) 32 637 716

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