Medulloblastoma is the most common type of malignant brain tumor that afflicts children. Although cisplatin chemotherapy and radiation have been the cornerstones of medulloblastoma intervention for over 20 years, the outcomes of these highly cytotoxic treatments are far from optimal, and there is increasing evidence that they cause long-term problems such as neurocognitive deficits and secondary tumors, even in patients with a good initial response. Thus, there is a critical need for more effective therapies to combat this disease.

To approach this problem we investigated protein kinase function in medulloblastoma using RNAi combined with genomic methods. First, we performed a kinome-wide siRNA screen and identified a cohort of genes that mediates medulloblastoma cell viability. These include a signaling node of kinases that are key components of the G2-M transition including, Aurora Kinase A, Aurora Kinase B, Plk1, Wee1, Nek2 and Mps1. Clearly the G2-M transition is critical for medulloblastoma cells, so kinases required for the process are potentially important therapeutic targets. We subsequently validated PLK1 and WEE 1 as bona fide therapeutic targets. Small molecule inhibitors of WEE 1 and PLK1 potently inhibited medulloblastoma cell growth and sensitized cells to radiation.

In conclusion, using siRNA screens we identified novel therapeutic targets for medulloblastoma therapy

Citation Format: {Authors}. {Abstract title} [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference: Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics; 2011 Nov 12-16; San Francisco, CA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Mol Cancer Ther 2011;10(11 Suppl):Abstract nr C83.