Medulloblastoma is the most-common, malignant, childhood brain tumour. Medulloblastoma can inhibit the cerebellum, affecting movement and balance in patients. Medulloblastoma symptoms include headaches, tiredness and nausea. Medulloblastoma treatment almost always includes surgery to remove as much of a tumour as possible.
New treatment approaches for medulloblastoma are desperately needed, not only to improve survival rates but, crucially, to reduce the devastating morbidity associated with current treatments. In 2020 we agreed to continue funding the Children’s Brain Tumour Drug Delivery Consortium‘s international initiative until at least 2022. We have also funded 5 further projects into brain tumours totalling over 1.5 million.
Medulloblastoma is a malignant, embryonal brain tumour that develops in the posterior fossa. Growths here can inhibit the cerebellum, which controls movement and balance in patients. On some occasions, it can spread to other parts of the body, such as the spine or lungs, through the central nervous system (CNS).
Medulloblastomas account for 15%-20% all childhood brain tumours; they are most common in children between and 8. Boys are at a slightly higher risk than girls. More than 70% of cases occur in children under the age of 10; incidence decreases significantly with age.
Whilst medulloblastoma symptoms may differ from child to child, they include:
Medulloblastomas can be diagnosed using several imaging tests, such as CT, MRI or PET scans. Doctors may choose to follow up with a biopsy to confirm the presence of a medulloblastoma. Read about Blake’s medulloblastoma story and how it all started with severe nightime headaches and vomitting.
A combination of treatments for medulloblastomas is currently in use. Surgery is almost always used to remove as much of a tumour as possible.
If a tumour cannot be completely removed this way, a follow-up course of chemotherapy or radiotherapy may be given. Steroids may also be prescribed to reduce the swelling associated with medulloblastoma brain tumours, although these do not stop the overall growth.
With surgery playing a large part in treatment, medulloblastoma treatment can be very aggressive.
We are funding a variety of research projects to learn more about how medulloblastoma develops in the posterior fossa and how it can be treated. You can read more about these below, or to learn more about CNS tumour treatments, visit our Brain & CNS Tumour page.
In cases where a tumour has not spread, survival rates can be as high as 70%. When the disease has spread to other parts of the central nervous system, the survival rate is closer to 60%.
For more information, visit our page on Central Nervous System and Brain Tumours
A new approach for treating childhood medulloblastoma
Using cutting edge molecular genetic techniques, Professor Pilkington’s team is unravelling the biology of medulloblastoma. They have identified the genetic signalling pathways that underlie development of the disease.
New techniques for delivery of therapies against medulloblastoma
Dr Amin is working on the development of a new way to deliver drugs to the brain bypassing the blood-brain barrier, carried by a special virus. He’ll use something called a bacteriophage particle, which has long been safely administered to both adults and children in antibiotic therapy.
Metabolic analysis of the tumour suppressor protein P73 in medulloblastoma
Dr Maria is studying how p73 is involved in MB and in particular its role in metabolic adaptation of these tumours. Her final goal is to understand whether targeting p73 could help treat them.
Read Charlie’s victory against medulloblastoma, told by his mum, Beverley:
“Charlie had been ill for about 10 weeks and we’d been backwards and forwards to the doctor. He’d been vomiting and there was a bug going around school so we thought nothing of it. He was complaining that his head hurt and his eyes looked tearful, even though he wasn’t crying. After five or six weeks, the doctor sent Charlie to hospital for further tests but they couldn’t find anything wrong so he was sent home.
He’d lost weight and was having severe headaches so I knew something was wrong. We went to A&E but he wasn’t showing any symptoms, no temperature or anything. The hospital tried to send us home but I refused to go anywhere. My boy needed a scan and I knew it. After the scan, the consultant came to see us and took us to a side room; I knew something was really wrong, Charlie had medulloblastoma.
We drove to another hospital and he was put on steroids straight away. When we walked into the hospital and I saw kids with pumps and bald heads, I couldn’t believe what was happening, ‘we shouldn’t be here’, I thought. Charlie needed a seven-hour operation to remove the tumour, followed by intensive radiotherapy. The radiotherapy caused burning on his head and spine. He stopped eating because his oesophagus was burnt too, so he was on a nose feed at night.
Charlie also needed one year of chemotherapy to fight the medulloblastoma, with treatment every six weeks. During this time, our whole family life was on hold, but we had great support from everyone, we all got through it together.
We learnt to accept what was happening and learnt to cope with everything that was thrown at us. The last scan was six years after he was first diagnosed. When they told us that they didn’t need to see us anymore, what a relief!”
If you’ve been touched by Charlie’s journey, help us invest in the high quality research which would otherwise go unfunded, helping to support children with posterior fossa tumours or other cancer types so they can be with their families for longer.