The three-year study will concentrate on medulloblastomas, which make up 20 per cent of brain tumour cases in children and mainly affect children aged between three and eight.
Medulloblastomas form in the cerebellum, a structure in the brain concerned with co-ordinating movement and maintaining posture and balance. The cerebellum contains the most neurons in the brain, yet must develop very rapidly immediately after birth, requiring a very large increase in the number of its cells in a very short period.
Sometimes this expansion goes wrong and the cells fail to stop growing. Scientists at the University of Sheffield hope to determine why this happens, which could eventually lead to more effective diagnosis and treatment.
Dr Andrew Furley, from the university’s Department of Biomedical Science, who is leading the study, said: “By studying the normal development of the cerebellum, scientists have already identified the key mechanisms that control its growth and have proved that damage to these mechanisms cause medulloblastoma.
“However, our understanding of these mechanisms remains poor and we cannot yet explain a substantial number of medulloblastoma cases. We have discovered a new mechanism controlling normal cerebellar growth and now plan to test its involvement in medulloblastoma.”
Source: Yorkshire Cancer Research