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Australian & New Zealand Childrens Haematology/Oncology Group

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MNP2.0 and AIM BRAIN PROJECT– NEW HOPE FOR CHILDREN WITH BRAIN CANCER

Over 180 children and teenagers from Australia and New Zealand have had their brain tumours analysed with the latest, world-leading molecular diagnostic platform through the MNP2.0 and AIM-BRAIN initiatives.  This comprehensive testing is providing more detailed and personalised information to guide treatment decisions for each child.  

Associate Professor Nick Gottardo is a leading Australian paediatric neuro-oncologist and has seen a lot of children with brain cancer during his career. “Despite the outstanding success in the treatment of many paediatric cancers in past two decades, brain cancer still kills more children than any other disease. If we are going to improve survival, we need to understand more about each brain tumour and what treatment works best for that type.”

Traditional analysis of brain tumours has shown that these cancers can be classified into distinct groups. However, recent molecular profiling studies, using DNA methylation patterns and gene panel analysis, have revealed that these groups can be further subdivided, each with individual disease characteristics and outcomes. This information helps to confirm the diagnosis provided through traditional pathology analysis, as well as providing extra details which may influence how the cancer responds to certain treatments.

ANZCHOG has enabled Australian and New Zealand children diagnosed with brain cancer to have their tumours analysed by the Molecular NeuroPathology 2.0 Study (MNP2.0), run in Germany.  At the same time, we are establishing the technology in Australia, through the AIM-BRAIN project, collaborating with researchers based at the Hudson Institute of Medical Research in Melbourne.

“We are starting to appreciate that conventional diagnosis techniques only provided half the story, and this may help us to understand why a treatment might succeed on one patient but then fail on the next, even though they apparently had the same tumour,” said Associate Professor Gottardo, study chair for AIM BRAIN. “Already, we are seeing the benefits of making treatment decisions armed with the additional information provided by molecular profiling, whereby we can minimise the burden of treatment side-effects and give our children the greatest chance of surviving brain cancer.

With Australian and New Zealand recruitment to the MNP2.0 study finishing at the end of 2019, A/Prof Gottardo says the development of an Australian-based platform is essential to ensure continued access to the most accurate brain cancer diagnosis information for our children. “Importantly, as more tumours are analysed through molecular profiling, the more we will learn about each sub-classification. The next level of data holds the key to accelerating survival outcomes for children and teenagers with brain cancer.”

We would like to acknowledge the generous support of The Robert Connor Dawes Foundation, the Australian Federal Government and Carrie’s Beanies 4 Brain Cancer Foundation.