Thoughts at Seminar
I had the opportunity over the weekend just past to attend and speak at a Paediatric Neuro-oncology Seminar held in Brisbane. It was a highly educational and informative couple of days. Neuro-oncology deals with all aspects of brain and spinal cord and peripheral nerve tumours and cancer. The meeting was attended by paediatric neurosurgeons (like me), Paediatric oncologists (tumour physicians…think chemotherapy) and radiation oncologists (think radiation treatment) and scientists from all the major children’s hospitals around Australia and New Zealand. The purpose is to keep us up to speed with clinical and scientific findings in the area that directly influence our treatment of patients. You may think that there were many attendees. The truth is there were approximately 50. I imagine another 20 would have attended however were unable.
We are a small ‘family’ that look after these conditions in Australasia. After all, even though were have an enormous area, our population is relatively small.
Listening to the various presentations, I found myself often feeling humbled by the enormous expertise, talent and compassion that my colleagues display but one thing was standing out during the talks…
Precision molecular treatments of brain tumours.
As little as 10 years ago when I was starting in the field, brain tumours were treated with combinations of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and this all was dictated by what a tumour looked like under a microscope. Many tumours that LOOKED the same were TREATED the same.
Over the last ten years with the completion of the human genome project and astronomical advances in gene technology, we are now only beginning to appreciate that it is the genetics of these tumours that is important and not everything that looks the same, behaves the same. This has generated NEW individualised chemotherapy and small molecular therapies that are showing some massive benefits for patients. The field is evolving so quickly that it is changing as I write these words.
To parents with a child suffering from a tumour, I ask you to engage with your child’s clinical team and ask if there has been precision testing of your child’s tumour. Your oncologist can guide you in this. To all others reading, agitate your government to make precision genetic testing routinely available to children in Australasia. We need your help.