"This discovery is very promising and may help researchers develop better, more targeted treatments so that more of these children will survive and fewer will suffer debilitating side effects," said Christine Williams, director of research programs for the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute.
The study was led by Dr. Michael Taylor, a pediatric brain surgeon at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children under a $600,000 research grant from the Canadian Cancer Society.
"When these eight genes are functioning normally, we believe their role is to make a protein which tells the developing brain when it's time to stop growing," said Taylor. "But when the genes are mutated, the brain may continue to grow out of control, leading to cancer.
"Drugs are already being developed that target these types of proteins," he added. "Our hope is that some of these drugs may be adapted and used effectively to treat medulloblastomas."
The study is reported in the journal Nature Genetics.