Brain tumour ‘atlas’ provides big data to fight childhood cancer

A collection of data extracted from more than 1000 paediatric brain tumour samples will improve Hudson Institute scientists’ ability to tackle childhood brain cancer through targeted therapies.

Dr Jason Cain and Associate Professor Ron Firestein explains the new data that could assist treatment of brain tumours in children.
L–R: Dr Jason Cain, Associate Professor Ron Firestein

The new Paediatric Brain Tumour Atlas (PBTA), launched by the US-based Children’s Brain Tumour Tissue Consortium (CBTTC) on Monday, includes data collected from 30 unique childhood brain tumour types.

As one of the most comprehensive collections of childhood brain tumour data it will help to accelerate new treatment approaches for children with cancer.

“Every patient’s brain tumour is genetically different. This tumour atlas will allow us to compare our patients’ tumours with thousands of tumour samples from all over the world,” Associate Professor Ron Firestein, Head of the Centre for Cancer Research at Hudson Institute, says.

“One of the biggest barriers to progress in childhood cancer research is access to large-scale data to compare specific genetic mutations with precedents. This collection helps to address that challenge.”

Hudson Institute has access to the atlas as a member of the CBTTC, a consortium of 16 institutions leading childhood brain cancer research across the world.

“For a child with a brain tumour, it means we could compare the unique genetic profile of a patient’s tumour sample with the database and potentially find a therapy that is already in use overseas,” Dr Jason Cain, Head of the Developmental and Cancer Biology research group, says.

“It means we can spend more time in the laboratory progressing answers and less time tracking down the data we require to do this work,” Dr Cain says.

The cloud-based data in the ‘Atlas’ – which includes genomic data such as DNA and RNA – is also paired with clinical data, pathology reports and radiological images to help researchers better understand how tumours arise, and how to better treat children with cancer.

This genomic data is collected with the consent of children with brain tumours and their parents (depending on the child’s age) to help future patients through research.

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