Florence Cavalli, Stephen Buttrum Brain Tumour Research Fellow

Florence Cavalli Stephen Buttrum Research Fellowship awardee

Project: Deciphering the transcriptional regulation underlying Medulloblastoma subgroups

Location: The Hospital for Sick Children, Arthur and Sonia Labatt Brain Tumour Research Centre at the Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning, Toronto, ON


Research Summary

Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumour in children, representing up to 20% of newly diagnosed children. Currently, all patients are treated with aggressive treatments consisting of surgical resection, chemotherapy, and radiation. However, molecular studies have revealed that medulloblastoma is composed of four groups. These subgroups can be seen as different diseases. For example, WNT tumours patients have a 5-year overall survival exceeding 95% compared to 60 to 70% in other subgroups. This tells us that treatments should be subgroup-specific. This project seeks to further describe and subdivide subgroups to ultimately make the treatment tailored to each tumour type. This can only be achieved with the unique dataset of 1,000 samples that we collected inside the Medulloblastoma Advanced Genomics International Consortium. We are attacking the problem from several angles by performing several types of experiments. This research will enable us to better understand how these tumours appear and grow and to identify new and more specific treatment targets.

Dr. Cavalli explains what the research means to her:

"Being awarded the Stephen Buttrum Brain Tumour Research Fellowship represents a formidable opportunity to grow as a researcher and continue my research into a brain tumour type arising in children; medulloblastoma. I am passionate about my research, which focuses on increasing our understanding of the biology of medulloblastoma tumours to ultimately find better treatments. I am driven by the idea that my efforts will contribute to reduce the devastating effects of this disease on young patients and their families."

From the final report:

After integration of somatic copy number alterations and clinical features, we identified twelve medulloblastoma subtypes with clear clinical and molecular characteristics; two WNT, four SHH, three Group 3 and three Group 4 subtypes. These subtypes are important clinically since they present distinct clinical outcome and/or distinct molecular characteristics at the copy number levels or pathway level for example. Read the entire report (PDF) and read the press release issued by SickKids. 

This Brain Tumour Research Fellowship was generously established in 2013, in memory of Stephen Buttrum, the husband of Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors Marjory Buttrum.

“We chose to fund a Brain Tumour Research Fellowship because it was important to us that our gift would make a difference to the wellbeing of others. Steve was a generous man…generous with his money, time and compassion for others, particularly children. He would be happy to know we are funding research to better understand and treat pediatric brain tumours."

                                            - Marjory Buttrum, Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada
                                              donor and board member


Help build Canada's brain tumour research community by funding a Brain Tumour Research Fellowship. Contact Suzanne at 1-800-265-5106, ext. 229 or at sfelliott@braintumour.ca.


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For more information about brain tumour research funding and programs, please contact:

Susan Ruypers
Research Program Specialist
1-800-265-5106 ext 240


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