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Can adult cancer drugs beat a childhood brain tumor?

Martine Roussel, PhD

Children with an aggressive form of the most common childhood brain tumor, medulloblastoma, face a tough prognosis. Effective treatments are limited, and long-term survival is poor. But new hope may be offered by a discovery from St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital involving a pair of drugs used to treat adult cancers.

To identify the drugs, St. Jude scientists rapidly tested thousands of chemicals for the ability to kill cells from high-risk medulloblastoma. The battery of chemicals included every federally-approved drug available in the U.S. Two medicines proved especially potent when used together, and worked even better when combined with existing chemotherapies against medulloblastoma.

“New chemotherapy options are desperately needed for these high-risk medulloblastoma patients,” said Martine Roussel, PhD, of St. Jude Tumor Cell Biology. “Our focus was to identify drugs that we could move quickly from the laboratory to the clinic.”

The drug pair, which is already used to treat aggressive adult tumors, is now being tested in a St. Jude-led clinical trial of children and teens with medulloblastoma.

The findings were published in the journal Cancer Cell.

March 27, 2014

Read the news release