Medulloblastoma is an aggressively-growing tumour, arising in the cerebellum or medulla/brain stem. It is the most common malignant brain tumour in children, and displays tremendous biological and clinical heterogeneity1. Despite recent treatment advances, approximately 40% of children experience tumour recurrence, and 30% will die from their disease. Those who survive often have a significantly reduced quality of life.
Four tumour subgroups with distinct clinical, biological and genetic profiles are currently discriminated2,3. WNT tumours, displaying activated wingless pathway signalling, carry a favourable prognosis under current treatment regimens4. SHH tumours show hedgehog pathway activation, and have an intermediate prognosis2. Group 3 & 4 tumours are molecularly less well-characterised, and also present the greatest clinical challenges2,3,5. The full repertoire of genetic events driving this distinction, however, remains unclear.
Here we describe an integrative deep-sequencing analysis of 125 tumour-normal pairs. Tetraploidy was identified as a frequent early event in Group 3 & 4 tumours, and a positive correlation between patient age and mutation rate was observed. Several recurrent mutations were identified, both in known medulloblastoma-related genes (CTNNB1, PTCH1, MLL2, SMARCA4) and in genes not previously linked to this tumour (DDX3X, CTDNEP1, KDM6A, TBR1), often in subgroup-specific patterns. RNA-sequencing confirmed these alterations, and revealed the expression of the first medulloblastoma fusion genes. Chromatin modifiers were frequently altered across all subgroups.
These findings enhance our understanding of the genomic complexity and heterogeneity underlying medulloblastoma, and provide several potential targets for new therapeutics, especially for Group 3 & 4 patients.