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Doctors are working to learn more about CNS tumors, ways to prevent them, how to best treat them, and how to provide the best care to children diagnosed with this disease. The following areas of research may include new options for patients through clinical trials. Always talk with your child's doctor about the diagnostic and treatment options best for your child.
New medications. Doctors are examining new types of drugs that may better control tumor growth.
Improved imaging techniques. Imaging techniques are being developed and refined that help surgeons pinpoint the tumor's location, to reduce or prevent tissue damage to the healthy parts of the brain during treatment.
- Functional MRI (fMRI) is an imaging technique that identifies the parts of the brain that control speech, hearing, vision, touch, and movement. The specific locations of these functions are slightly different in every person, so fMRI allows surgeons to plan surgery around these areas.
- Image-guided stereotaxis allows surgeons to visualize and operate on the brain using three-dimensional outlines of the brain and the tumor. Along with specialized software, these images help guide the surgeon to the tumor. Many tumors that were once considered inoperable can now be removed with this technique.
- Magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans are also being used to examine tumor metabolic activity. Whether these techniques will improve a doctor's ability to predict how a tumor will grow and spread is still being researched.
Improved methods of delivering radiation treatment. Doctors are experimenting with new techniques for delivering radiation therapy to certain types of tumors. These methods make detailed, three-dimensional maps of the brain and tumor, so doctors can focus the radiation on the tumor and avoid damage to the nearby healthy tissue. This can reduce a child's exposure to radiation and lessen the long-term side effects.
Targeted therapy. Recent research has found specific genes, proteins, and other factors unique to different types of CNS tumors. Treatments aimed at these factors, called targeted therapy, are now being studied. Targeted therapy is a treatment that targets the cancer's specific genes, proteins, or the tissue environment that contributes to cancer growth and survival. This type of treatment blocks the growth and spread of cancer cells while limiting damage to normal cells.
Immunotherapy. Immunotherapy (also called biologic therapy) is designed to boost the body's natural defenses to fight the cancer. It uses materials made either by the body or in a laboratory to bolster, target, or restore immune system function. Researchers are studying how well these drugs work and how safe they are for children with CNS tumors.
Supportive care. Clinical trials are underway to find better ways of reducing symptoms and side effects of current CNS tumor treatments in order to improve patients' comfort and quality of life.
Learn more about common statistical terms used in cancer research.
Looking for More about Current Research?
If you would like additional information about the latest areas of research regarding childhood cancers, explore these related items:
- To find clinical trials specific to your child's diagnosis, talk with your child's doctor or search online clinical trial databases now.
- Review research announced at recent scientific meetings or in ASCO's peer-reviewed journals.
- Read ASCO's latest Clinical Cancer Advances report, which highlights top research findings over the past year.
- Visit ASCO's CancerProgress.Net website to learn more about the historical pace of research for childhood cancer.
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