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Hawkins Lab

Research Interests

The Hawkins laboratory focuses on genetic and proteomic markers for prognostication and therapy guidance in paediatric brain tumours including medulloblastoma, astrocytoma and ependymoma. Traditionally, medulloblastomas have been classified on the basis of their appearance into different pathological types, but with poor correlation between these categories and outcome. In this laboratory we developed a clinical-biologic model to predict survival in medulloblastoma. Although this goes beyond previous studies in differentiating those children with a good versus a poor prognosis, our aim is to acquire more detailed knowledge of the biology of medulloblastomas in order to tailor therapy to the particular biology and predicted behaviour of an individual patient’s tumour.

Genome-wide approaches are being used to better understand the genes important for development of paediatric astrocytoma. Potential targets are then verified at the RNA and then protein level using tissue microrrays. Functional studies are performed using tissue culture techniques. In ependymoma, we have found that expression of telomerase, a protein important for continued cell division, can predict outcome in paediatric ependymoma more effectively than clinical prognostic factors. We are investigating its potential as a therapeutic target for these tumours. The ability to predict the behaviour of a particular tumour as well as its response to a particular chemotherapeutic agent are crucial steps in developing patient-tailored therapy.