Researchers from the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience in Australia and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre in the US have conducted a clinical trial to evaluate a previously approved breast cancer drug palbociclib to treat brain tumours.

The trial enrolled children with a common type of brain tumour called medulloblastoma and demonstrated that palbociclib could shrink the tumours.

University of Queensland professor Brandon Wainwright said: “Clearly, we need new therapies that increase survival of young patients and reduce the side effects they suffer, such as delays in brain development, growth problems and increased risk of other cancers.”

The University’s researcher Dr Laura Genovesi examined medulloblastoma’s genetic code to predict the brain tumour's response to various already-approved drugs.

"If the clinical trial is successful, it would represent a major step forward to taking this research from the genome to the clinic."

During the examination, Dr Genovesi found that oral palbociclib, which was approved in 2015 for breast cancer, has the potential for the treatment of medulloblastoma.

While the researchers expected palbociclib to only arrest the brain tumour’s growth, it was found to shrink them to a size where survival would be possible.

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Dr Genovesi said: “The finding is remarkable since the tumours were very advanced and were treated for only a short period of time and we did not use any other therapy such as chemotherapy in combination. 

“If the clinical trial is successful, it would represent a major step forward to taking this research from the genome to the clinic.”

After ceasing palbociclib treatment, certain tumours were observed to have recurred, indicating the use of palbociclib or similar drugs in combination with other medulloblastoma medications for the treatment of resistant cells.