Medulloblastoma patients under 5 years of age are among the most challenging patients to treat. That’s because their developing brains can be harmed by brain and spine irradiation. Intensive chemotherapy regimens have become the surrogate treatment option, but this also brings toxicity.
However, in a recent study, St. Jude researchers and their colleagues discovered a new subtype, which does well without brain and spine radiation and with less aggressive chemotherapy. About a quarter of infants with medulloblastoma have this subtype, called infant SHH-II. Seventy-five percent of patients with the subtype did not have their disease return for five years or more after receiving therapy that included only chemotherapy. The rates were even higher, 91 percent, for those whose tumors had been completely removed and had not spread.
The discovery identifies a group of patients who can be spared the life-long side effects of more aggressive treatment.
Giles Robinson, MD, of St. Jude Oncology led the research, which appeared in The Lancet Oncology.