The biological basis for cancer is revolutionizing our understanding of what drives a normal cell to behave as a tumor cell. The regulation of that process has been broadly defined for some tumors of childhood (such as medulloblastoma and ependymoma). As a result these tumors are routinely being defined based on advanced molecular analysis and those results are now being incorporated into optimal therapeutic strategies. This approach is currently being implemented for other rare and related brain tumor in children, most notably in diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). In a few years, with a strong combined international effort, DIPG has gone from obscurity to being one of the best-defined brain tumors of childhood. That information is currently being incorporated into clinical trials that will provide new hope for children who otherwise have none. (More about DIPG.)
This same successful paradigm is now being proposed and implemented though the CBTP for thalamic glioma. Due to the tumor’s rarity, which creates a lack of available tissue to study, thalamic glioma has not yet been subjected to the same rigorous research recently used on other pediatric brain tumors. The success of the research relies heavily on this thalamic glioma registry.
A clear understanding of a tumor’s biology provides specialists with the potential to attack specific events that led a tumor to form and grow. Once we know what’s behind a tumor’s growth, we can then design treatments to stop it. Chemotherapy drugs, targeted molecules, immunotherapy, viral therapy and radiation enhancers are best applied in specific tumors once these mechanisms are found to be sensitive. This merging of science with treatment is referred to as translational. Designing translational projects for children with otherwise incurable tumors has been the cornerstone of the Children’s Brain Tumor Project.
Reviewed by Mark M. Souweidane, M.D.
Last reviewed/last updated: July 2015