Terry Fox International grant awarded to researcher looking to personalize treatment for infants with brain cancer

For years, most children under the age of three diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer known as medulloblastoma have been treated with a “one-size-fits-all” therapy that, while effective in removing brain tumours, often leaves them with irreversible brain damage.

Luckily, new technologies are bringing hope to these children. Recent advances in the field of genomics have allowed doctors to understand that not all medulloblastomas are the same, and that not all children need aggressive therapies to get better. These technologies are also helping a new Terry Fox International Grant awardee from Argentina to see exactly which children will benefit from a less aggressive therapy that has shown great success in treating the disease.

“In Argentina, we treat infants under the age of three with medulloblastoma using a de-escalated regimen that’s very similar to what is used to treat leukemia and that has excellent results in many patients,” said Dr. Lorena Baroni (Hospital Garrahan, Buenos Aires, Argentina). “My goal for this project is to use molecular analysis on samples brought from Argentina to see if there are any molecular indicators that can predict exactly which kids will benefit from this de-escalated strategy.”

Dr. Baroni’s grant is funded by Terry Fox Runs held at international schools around the world, including her hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The grant will allow her to use high-grade sequencers at the SickKids Hospital in Toronto to perform the molecular analyses needed to perform her research, while also allowing her to verify this data by comparing it with samples collected in 10 different centres around the world.
By the end of the project, she hopes to be able to create a protocol that could help improve survival rates and quality of life for a subset of children with medulloblastoma.

“I anticipate my study will be able to provide important insights into optimal treatment for this group and will be able to inform the developing world as to whether this strategy is a feasible way of avoiding intensification of therapy for young infants with this terrible disease,” said Dr. Baroni.