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For brain tumor patients, age matters

Jinghui Zhang, PhD, and Suzanne Baker, PhD

Scientists at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital have more evidence that age matters when it comes to the devastating brain tumors called high-grade gliomas (HGGs).

Researchers knew the genetic makeup of these tumors varied significantly between adults and children. The new findings suggest the same is true for children of different ages. In this study, investigators sifted through billions of pieces of DNA. They discovered specific genetic alterations that occurred most often in the youngest patients.

The discoveries provide clues researchers can use to fashion more effective age-specific therapies. Such treatments are urgently needed. Despite aggressive treatment with surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, fewer than 20 percent of patients with these tumors are alive two years after their cancer is diagnosed.

“This study provides striking new evidence of how high-grade gliomas differ not only between adults and children, but also between older and younger children,” said Suzanne Baker, PhD, of St. Jude Developmental Neurobiology.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Genetics, are the latest from the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital–Washington University Pediatric Cancer Genome Project.

April 6, 2014

Read the news release