Molecular mechanisms and therapeutic targets in pediatric brain tumors

Sci Signal. 2017 Mar 14;10(470):eaaf7593. doi: 10.1126/scisignal.aaf7593.


Brain tumors are among the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in children. Although surgery, aggressive radiation, and chemotherapy have improved outcomes, many patients still die of their disease. Moreover, those who survive often suffer devastating long-term side effects from the therapies. A greater understanding of the molecular underpinnings of these diseases will drive the development of new therapeutic approaches. Advances in genomics and epigenomics have provided unprecedented insight into the molecular diversity of these diseases and, in several cases, have revealed key genes and signaling pathways that drive tumor growth. These not only serve as potential therapeutic targets but also have facilitated the creation of animal models that faithfully recapitulate the human disease for preclinical studies. In this Review, we discuss recent progress in understanding the molecular basis of the three most common malignant pediatric brain tumors-medulloblastoma, ependymoma, and high-grade glioma-and the implications for development of safer and more effective therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Brain Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Cerebellar Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Cerebellar Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Child
  • Ependymoma / drug therapy
  • Ependymoma / genetics*
  • Glioma / drug therapy
  • Glioma / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Medulloblastoma / drug therapy
  • Medulloblastoma / genetics*
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy / methods
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / genetics


  • Biomarkers, Tumor