What’s New in Pediatric Brain Tumor Research and Care?

Mark W. Kieran, MD, PhD, director of Pediatric Medical Neuro-Oncology at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, spoke to pediatric patient families in a recent Facebook Live Webchat addressing pediatric brain tumor care.

Kieran answered questions from audience members about the most common of the 300 brain tumor types that occur in children, including low grade gliomas, medulloblastomas, diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas, and ependymomas.

“Brain tumors in kids are fundamentally different than those in adults,” Kieran said, explaining that a child’s tumor may have the same microscopic appearance to an adult tumor, but the mutations that cause its growth are completely different.

As young children’s bodies are still growing, large doses of radiation therapy and chemotherapy to treat tumors can be harmful to their long-term cognitive and physical development. Kieran explained his team’s progress in precision medicine, which screens for unique mutations in each child’s tumor and uses drugs to specifically target them, and novel experimental therapies — including immunotherapy, focused ultrasound therapy, and proton radiation. He is hopeful these methods will successfully treat children while improving their quality of life.

“We’re going to start to see much better cure rates [at] much lower toxicity and much better…cognitive and functional outcomes,” he said. “That’s going to be the true measure of success.”

View a video of the May 22 webchat below.