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Doctors might soon use personalized drug screens to determine which therapies to treat each child diagnosed with medulloblastoma. The latter is a prevalent type of brain tumor in children.

Scientists found that personalized drug screens provide a more efficient approach to treating medulloblastoma after measuring therapeutic effectiveness. The new therapeutic approach relies on a biopsy to collect tumor cells from which they obtain the necessary information that oncologists use to determine which therapies will yield the optimal results. The research was courtesy of collaborative efforts between scientists from Hopp Children’s Cancer Center Heidelberg (KiTZ), University of California’s San Diego School of Medicine, and Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute.

The researchers also conducted a proof of concept study whose findings are available in the Cancer Research journal. Dr. Robert Wechsler-Reya, one of the study’s authors stated that the results favor personalized drug screens as the ideal approach for treating medulloblastoma in children. Doctors have traditionally relied on a common approach where the same treatments are used on all medulloblastoma tumors in children.

Why the customized treatment approach is a big deal

Medulloblastoma is one of the most common cancer types in children, but it may develop into different types, mainly due to different genetic factors. Treatments may thus be useful in one patient and ineffective in another. Many children with this cancer type end up succumbing when treatment fails to achieve the desired results.

The new personalized drug screen approach will increase medulloblastoma treatment efficiency because doctors can cater to each child’s therapeutic needs. Individually targeted therapy will allow doctors to save more lives. Personalized treatment options will also make it easier for doctors to protect children from long-term radiation and chemotherapy effects when they go through cancer treatment while still very young.

The researchers found that Actinomycin D appeared more effective against brain tumors in children than some traditional chemotherapy approaches that are usually harsh on young patients. Traditional therapies are known to cause extreme side effects, especially in children. Better therapies promise safer treatment, and scientists have already tested the new approach successfully on an 8-year-old boy with metastatic medulloblastoma.