Better medulloblastoma treatments urgently needed

Better medulloblastoma treatments urgently needed

The devastating impact of childhood brain cancer is recognised every September as part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

The devastating impact of childhood brain cancer is recognised every September as part of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

In 2019, Minister for Health, Greg Hunt, proclaimed 26 September as Australia’s annual Childhood Brain Cancer Awareness Day. The aim of creating such a day is to raise public awareness of the impact of childhood brain cancer on patients, family and carers and to highlight the importance of childhood brain cancer research.

 

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Each year Childhood Brain Cancer Awareness Day focusses on one strain of brain cancer and in 2021 it is medulloblastoma.

Medulloblastoma is the second most common type of childhood cancer of the central nervous system, accounting for 13 percent of cases.

Incidence rates of medulloblastoma have increased by 1.4 percent per year on average between 1983 and 2017. This is very similar to the increase in all childhood tumours of the central nervous system (1.3 percent per year).


Read more: Science | It's life or death for a child


 

While this is an ongoing steady increase, in total it amounts to a 58 percent increase over a 35-year period. The reasons behind this trend are unclear, however advances in diagnostic technology may explain at least part of the increase.

There is good news in terms of five-year survival rates. A significant increase has been reported for children with medulloblastoma from 53 percent for those diagnosed between 1983-1994 to 73 percent between 2007-2016.

However, survival for medulloblastoma still lags behind many other types of childhood cancer. There is variation by age group, ranging from 64 percent for children aged 0-4 at diagnosis up to 89 percent in the 10-14 age group.

This is something The Kids’ Cancer Project is determined to change. Earlier this year the charity announced that a research study the charity has funded made a breakthrough as Owen Finegan, CEO explains.

“More children die of brain cancer than any other disease in Australia which is why finding cures for strains like medulloblastoma is one of The Kids’ Cancer Project’s top priorities,” he says.


Read more: New anti-cancer drug shows promise for kid with brain cancer


“In July we were able to report that an international collaboration funded by our generous donors, led by researchers from The University of Queensland’s Diamantina Institute and WEHI in Melbourne, could give parents hope in the fight against medulloblastoma,” says Owen.

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