Functional precision medicine identifies new therapeutic candidates for medulloblastoma

Brain, Medial, Child, Anatomy-CNS Germ Cell Tumor-HP

Source: NCI | Creator: Terese Winslow (Illustrator)

Rusert JM, Juarez EF, Brabetz S, Jensen J, Garancher A, Chau LQ, Tacheva-Grigorova SK, Wahab S, Udaka YT, Finlay D, Seker-Cin H, Reardon B, Gröbner S, Serrano J, Ecker J, Qi L, Kogiso M, Du Y, Baxter PA, Henderson JJ, Berens ME, Vuori K, Milde T, Cho YJ, Li XN, Olson JM, Reyes I, Snuderl M, Wong TC, Dimmock DP, Nahas SA, Malicki D, Crawford JR, Levy ML, Van Allen EM, Pfister SM, Tamayo P, Kool M, Mesirov JP, Wechsler-Reya RJ.

Cancer Research

October 12, 2020

Medulloblastoma (MB) is among the most common malignant brain tumors in children. Recent studies have identified at least four subgroups of the disease that differ in terms of molecular characteristics and patient outcomes. Despite this heterogeneity, most MB patients receive similar therapies, including surgery, radiation, and intensive chemotherapy. Although these treatments prolong survival, many patients still die from the disease and survivors suffer severe long-term side effects from therapy. We hypothesize that each MB patient is sensitive to different therapies and that tailoring therapy based on the molecular and cellular characteristics of patient tumors will improve outcomes. To test this, we assembled a panel of orthotopic patient-derived xenografts (PDX) and subjected them to DNA sequencing, gene expression profiling, and high-throughput drug screening. Analysis of DNA sequencing revealed that most MB do not have actionable mutations that point to effective therapies. In contrast, gene expression and drug response data provided valuable information about potential therapies for every tumor. For example, drug screening demonstrated that actinomycin D, which is used for treatment of sarcoma but rarely for MB, was active against PDX representing Group 3 MB, the most aggressive form of the disease. Functional analysis of tumor cells was successfully used in a clinical setting to identify more treatment options than sequencing alone. These studies suggest that it should be possible to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach and begin to treat each patient with therapies that are effective against their specific tumor.

Last updated: October 22, 2020