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Breast cancer drug shows stunning results in medulloblastoma treatment

Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumour found in children. Treatment options are limited, but scientists continue to push forward to find an effective treatment. In order to deliver a new drug to the scene quicker, scientists took a look at an already approved drug, used to treat breast cancer, and got some promising results.

Medulloblastoma is one of the most common causes of cancer death in infants, children and adolescents. Image credit: The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology via Wikimedia

Brain cancer at young age is devastating. It is one of the most common causes of cancer death in infants, children and adolescents. Even those who survive often face life-long effects on their brain. They typically face a higher risk of other cancers, show signs of reduced brain development and their growth is impacted as well. Treatment options are limited and currently used drugs have some side effects, which led scientists to try to find a better treatment option. The best way to introduce new therapies quicker is to use drugs that are already approved and tested.

Scientists examined the genetic code of medulloblastoma. They wanted to figure out which of drugs, currently used to treat other types of cancer, would be the most effective at combating medulloblastoma. Analysis showed that the best candidate is palbociclib – an oral drug approved in 2015 for the treatment of breast cancer. At first scientists were hoping that palbociclib would stop the growth of medulloblastoma tumours, but they were surprised to see that it actually shrank the tumours to a size where survival is possible. The result was stunning as scientists were not expecting the drug to go that far, especially in the case they were researching.

Palbociclib reduced the size of the tumours, which was a huge success, but not everything is worked out at this point. Dr Laura Genovesi, one of the researchers of the study, said: “tumours were very advanced and were treated for only a short period of time and we did not use any other therapy such as chemotherapy in combination. Some tumours recurred once treatment with palbociclib stopped, probably due to resistant cells within the tumour”. This means that in the future palbociclib would have to be used in combination with some other drug or therapy to treat resistant cells.

Although palbociclib is already approved for clinical use, it will still take a lot of time till scientists can start using it to treat patients of medulloblastoma. It is because this drug is approved so recently and only for breast cancer. However, it will still be much quicker than introducing an entirely new drug.

 

Source: The University of Queensland

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