Groundbreaking findings published this month in Nature have shown that epigenetics (the packaging of DNA) is the main cause of a difficult-to-treat type of childhood brain cancer called ependymoma. This research, co-led by professor Michael Taylor at the U of T, has also shown that current FDA-approved drugs may be used to target this cancer.

DNA code is much like an instruction book that tells a cell how it should operate. Most cancers occur when the words in this instruction book are misspelled, added, or deleted. The main cause of ependymoma, however, is words that are in the wrong font (improperly packaged DNA). Ependymoma is the third most common form of childhood brain cancer. Surgery and radiation therapy are used to treat this cancer, as chemotherapy is ineffective. Despite treatment, the cancer often recurs.

If funding is granted, the researchers plan to conduct a clinical trial to test whether drugs that target the packaging of DNA can effectively cure ependymoma.

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