Children with the most common malignant form of brain cancer could see diagnostic wait times reduced thanks to new research that’s trialled a new, quicker and less invasive way of determining which type of tumour they have.   

The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by University of Birmingham and Newcastle University, together with our hospital as the lead clinical centre, and funded by us, Children with Cancer UK and Cancer Research UK. 

The collaborative team identified how the four different groups of medulloblastoma, a malignant children’s brain tumour, had a specific profile based on their individual metabolism.  

Taking cell samples from 86 tumours, a laboratory test was used to accurately identify metabolic markers including chemicals specific to the different tumour groups.    

The study also validated previous research which found glutamate, a metabolite present across all of the tumour cells, is linked closely with tumour prognosis.   

Significantly, the research could pave the way for using MRI scanning combined with machine learning to assess medulloblastomas for their ‘signature’ metabolic profiles without the need for invasive biopsy and could rapidly reduce the current three-four- week wait from presentation to full diagnosis.   

Andrew Peet, Emeritus Professor of Clinical Paediatric Oncology at University of Birmingham and an Honorary Consultant at our hospital was the lead author on the study. He said: “Time is so important in cancer diagnosis so our findings on different types of medulloblastoma having a detectable signature metabolism could be game changing for quickly diagnosing and  offering the best possible treatment for children.”   

Dr Laura Danielson, Children’s and Young People's Research Lead at Cancer Research UK, said: "Developing quicker, less invasive ways to accurately diagnose the different types of medulloblastoma, the most commonmalignant brain tumour in children, is a crucial step in improving outcomes for young patients.   

"This important study has identified a new way to distinguish between the four subgroups of medulloblastoma. This discovery paves the way for the development ofsimple imaging tests that could quickly and accurately diagnose the different types of medulloblastoma.   

"This kind of discovery research is important to drive new and improved ways to better detect and treat cancers affecting children and young people." 

We helped deliver research into this topic with a fantastic £75,000 grant received from The Children's Research Fund. We’re now also investing an additional £113,000 to support further vital imaging research.