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Hedgehog Hunted in Kids’ Brain Tumors

Hedgehog signaling pathway commonly activated in pediatric brain tumor, potentially associated with younger age at diagnosis and poorer outcome

September 17, 2010 | Melissa Marino

Pilocytic astrocytoma, the most common type of pediatric brain tumor, has an excellent 10-year survival rate and is often viewed as a benign lesion. However, survival and progression-free survival rates fall over time and survivors often suffer later consequences related to disease or treatment.


Sarah Rush, M.D., Michael Cooper, M.D., and colleagues in the Vanderbilt Brain Tumor Center analyzed activation of the Hedgehog (Hh) pathway – which has been implicated in the growth of other types of brain tumors – in pilocytic astrocytomas from patients aged 1 to 22 years.

They found that the Hh pathway is operational in 45 percent of sporadic pilocytic astrocytomas and activated to a greater extent in tumors from younger patients with more aggressive pathological features. They also demonstrated that expression of Hh pathway signal transduction components correlated with the expression of a marker for cell proliferation.

The study, which was featured on the cover of the August issue of Neuro-Oncology, suggests that Hh activation is common in these tumors and may be associated with younger age at diagnosis and poorer outcome.

For other research highlights from Vanderbilt University Medical Center laboratories, see ‘Aliquots‘ in the VUMC Reporter.