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Studying single cells to understand a type of pediatric brain tumor

Memphis, Tennessee, July 24, 2019

St. Jude researchers Northcott, Smith and Bihannic in white lab coats talking about research around laptop

Knowing the cell of origin for the medulloblastoma subtypes may aid in the creation of laboratory models that are crucial for studying the disease in the laboratory and testing therapeutic approaches. From left to right: Paul Northcott, Ph.D., Kyle Smith, Ph.D. and Laure Bihannic, Ph.D., in the St. Jude Department of Developmental Neurobiology, are investigating the single-cell genomics of cancer.

Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant childhood brain tumor. It has four subtypes. Two of them, Groups 3 and 4, account for 60% of cases. They are the least understood.

Scientists completed the most in-depth study of medulloblastoma subtypes. To do that, they studied single cells. This helped shed light on how the cells become cancerous.

“The ability to look at these single cells propelled us 10 steps forward in understanding how the types of medulloblastoma arise, what drives them, and how we can make treatments more effective,” said Paul Northcott, PhD, of the St. Jude Department of Developmental Neurobiology.

The scientists found the first cell of origin for Group 4. They also learned more about the relationship between Groups 3 and 4.

The findings may help scientists create lab models of the disease and design future clinical trials.

St. Jude worked on the project with Massachusetts General Hospital, the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and others.

Nature published a report on this work.

Read the full news release.

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