Brain tumor research update
Brain tumors are among the most feared childhood illnesses. They are uncommon, occurring in five of 100,000 children, but although surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiation may cure the tumor, children may be left with life-changing disabilities or even death, if the tumor growth cannot
be stopped. Controlling a tumor while minimizing injury to the developing brain is a delicate balancing act only achieved by expert, multidisciplinary teams.
The brain tumor team at Children’s Hospital Boston and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is opening new frontiers. Our neurosurgeons pioneered the use of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) within a pediatric operating room, enabling them to monitor tumor removal while preserving normal brain.
Our researchers identified the first molecular markers to predict whether malignant embryonal tumors may respond to treatment. We used this information to tailor therapies based on these markers—a decisive first step in the development of personalized medicine. Deeper molecular
analysis of these tumors recently revealed subtypes based on their mechanisms of tumor growth. Clinical trials targeting these mechanisms are in development, possibly paving the way for decreased use of chemotherapy and radiation. This progress is documented here in this issue.
We also closely follow children after therapy to identify and address late effects of treatment to maximize their quality of life and help them achieve at their highest level. Such close follow-up can reveal surprising insights.
For example, children with a certain type of brain tumor, craniopharyngioma, often report feeling sleepy or fatigued all day, for years after their therapy. Careful monitoring of several survivors, detailed in these pages, revealed the problem and led us to a clinical treatment. In addition to medical and physical care, neuropsychologists, education specialists and psychologists provide much needed support for children in every aspect of their lives. Some of the most common late effects of brain tumor therapy are also noted in this issue.
We address brain tumors from all angles, utilizing all of our clinical and research resources to manage every aspect of care. From early diagnosis to our outcomes clinic, we provide the highest quality of pediatric brain tumor care possible.