Genetic Analysis of Pediatric Gliomas
Cancer is caused by the accumulation of errors (mutations) in the genetic material of tumor cells. The identification of these mutations has allowed the development of treatments specifically targeted at the mutated genes, resulting in remarkable clinical advances for a few types of cancer. These discoveries remain the exception rather than the rule, however, since only a minority of genes has been analyzed in most cancers. An improved understanding of the genetic events causing pediatric brain tumors would be particularly valuable, due to the substantial morbidity and mortality caused by these cancers. Despite this fact, relatively little is known about the genetic events underlying the development of pediatric gliomas, the most common type of brain tumor in children.
We now have a remarkable opportunity to change this situation. Recent technological advances have allowed us to obtain unprecedented views of the genetic landscapes of human cancers. We have recently used these methods to analyze adult glioblastoma multiforme, the most lethal brain cancer. This study identified the most common genetic alterations in these tumors, many of which were previously unsuspected. I now plan to use these methods, as well as the genetic information obtained from our prior study, in order to analyze pediatric gliomas, with a goal of rapidly identifying specific genes and pathways which may serve as targets for novel diagnostics and therapeutics. Only once the true nature of the molecular alterations occurring in these tumors is known will we be able to rationally select the most attractive genetic targets for basic research and future clinical trials.