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Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) © Universitätsklinikum Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE)

Scientists in Hamburg researching paediatric brain tumours

Subgroup of tumours incurable so far - scientists now closer to cure

An international group of scientists at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) and the Research Institute Children’s Cancer Center Hamburg has made encouraging progress regarding an incurable subgroup of paediatric brain tumours, a press release said Monday (September 11, 2017). Prof. Dr. Ulrich Schüller, who works in both research centres, said: “The development of embryonic tumours with multi-layered rosettes (ETMRs) has not been fully clarified so far. There is total lack of standard therapy and effective medication.” The scientists had aimed to uncover how precursor cells in the brain degenerate on a molecular level and have published their findings in the latest edition of Nature Medicine.

Cause of ETMR uncovered

The scientists identified molecular mechanisms, which are responsible for the development of paediatric brain tumours. Experiments were conducted to slow the growth of the tumour significantly with medication. ETMRs are characterized by a parallel activation of Shh and Wnt signalling. Co-activation of these pathways in mouse neural precursors is sufficient to induce ETMR-like tumours in vivo that resemble their human counterparts on the basis of histology and global gene-expression analyses. They point to apical radial glia cells as the possible tumour cell of origin.

Successful medication

The scientists have treated such ETMR tumours successfully with arsenic trioxide which is used as a chemotherapeutic agent to treat certain forms of leukaemia, said Schüller. A member of the Institute for Neuropathology, Dr. Julia Neumann, added: “Therefore, we expect it to quite well tolerated, and that it can be used safely.”

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