The potential impact of tumour biology on improved clinical practice for medulloblastoma: progress towards biologically driven clinical trials

Br J Neurosurg. 2009 Aug;23(4):364-75. doi: 10.1080/02688690903121807.


Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumour of childhood and accounts for around 10% of all childhood cancer deaths. Despite recent improvements in survival rates, the delivery of individualised therapies based on disease-risk remains a major goal; intensified treatment for poor-risk disease, whilst reducing therapy for favourable-risk cases, with the overall aim of maximising survival whilst minimising late effects. Current clinical indices for the prediction of disease course are imprecise, however a series of molecular and histopathological biomarkers have been identified recently, which may allow a more accurate prediction of disease outcome (e.g., beta-catenin status as a favourable-risk marker, MYC gene amplification and large-cell histology as high-risk markers). Pan-European clinical trials being planned for medulloblastoma by the SIOP Brain tumour group will assess the stratification of patients using molecular and histological biomarkers, alongside clinical indices, to select favourable, standard and high-risk treatment groups. This selection will underpin two concurrent trials; PNET 5, which will test whether treatment can be reduced for a favourable-risk disease sub-group, with the aim of maintaining survival rates while reducing late-effects, and PNET 6, which will aim to improve survival rates in the standard-risk group. The implementation of these trials presents important new logistical challenges within routine practice, involving (i) the development of quality-controlled sample collection and handling systems across multiple treatment centres, including the mandatory ascertainment of fresh-frozen tumour material, and (ii) the delivery of standardised central biomarker analysis and histopathological review, within the approximately 30-day post-surgical window, prior to the selection and commencement of adjuvant therapy. Feasibility studies to establish these systems are underway across SIOP Europe national groups. Their success will require a coordinated approach by the entire multidisciplinary team, including neurosurgeons, oncologists and neuropathologists, with the common aim of facilitating targeted delivery of individualised risk-adapted therapies for children with medulloblastoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Cerebellar Neoplasms* / diagnosis
  • Cerebellar Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Cerebellar Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Trials as Topic*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Disease Progression
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / physiology
  • Male
  • Medulloblastoma* / diagnosis
  • Medulloblastoma* / pathology
  • Medulloblastoma* / therapy
  • Mutation
  • Patient Selection*
  • Prognosis
  • Signal Transduction
  • Survival Rate
  • Young Adult


  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins