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National brain tumour research funding needs to increase to £30-35 million a year

A targeted treatment for brain tumour babies

Results from a comprehensive study of infant gliomas have revealed that these tumours are molecularly different from those in older children and this helps to explain why they tend to be less aggressive.

The fact that these brain tumours in infants are biologically distinct from other childhood brain tumours could lead to their successful treatment with targeted drugs.

High-grade gliomas are almost always fatal in older children with only 20% surviving for more than five years. However, what was found in babies and very young children, diagnosed when less than 12 months old, was that they tended to have better outcomes, with around two-thirds surviving five years or more.

The study found that brain tumours in babies often had specific molecular weaknesses which could be targeted by existing targeted drugs - and clinical trials to assess these are now set to open.

The new results could help pick out babies with brain tumours who could be spared chemotherapy - which can have devastating side-effects and be particularly harmful while their brain is still developing.

Charitably funded, this work was a collaboration between US and European scientists and was published in Cancer Discovery today (Thursday).

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