"The Northcott lab is interested in solving the molecular and cellular origins of the childhood brain tumor medulloblastoma. Coupling cutting-edge next-generation sequencing and integrative computational approaches with in vivo functional studies, we aim to comprehensively understand the genetic, epigenetic, and transcriptional landscapes underlying medulloblastoma heterogeneity and developmental biology. These studies will lead to more effective, less toxic treatment options for patients with medulloblastoma, improving patient outcomes and reducing morbidity associated with current standard-of-care."

- Dr. Paul A. Northcott
View Dr. Northcott's Biosketch 

Academic Appointments

  • Assistant Member, Department of Developmental Neurobiology, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

About DSA-Funded Research

Brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related death in children. Medulloblastoma is among the most prevalent types of malignant pediatric brain cancer, currently recognized to comprise four distinct subtypes, each with disparate biological and clinical features. Among subgroups, Group 4 represents nearly half of all pediatric patients but remains the least understood, with no accurate preclinical models and no targeted therapies. We will use a combination of cutting-edge genomic and functional strategies to fundamentally enhance understanding of the cellular and molecular basis underlying Group 4. Our recent studies pertaining to medulloblastoma enhancers - molecular “switches” that control which genes are actively “on” in the cell - have revealed the type of brain cells from which Group 4 tumors potentially originate. We will now use genetically engineered mouse models to color these cells during brain development so that they can be faithfully isolated and molecularly “fingerprinted” using modern genomics, confirming their identity as bona fide Group 4 cells-of-origin. In parallel, we will exploit our direct access to large medulloblastoma genomic datasets and patient cohorts, applying our expertise in cancer gene identification to uncover novel genes and pathways deregulated in Group 4. Collectively, this knowledge will allow us to study high priority genes in the correct cell type(s) at the right developmental stage and generate the first genetically accurate Group 4 mouse model. These studies are a critical step forward towards the development of rational, molecularly targeted therapies that will improve survival rates and outlook for Group 4 medulloblastoma patients and their families.

Accolades

"Paul Northcott is arguably one of the world’s more productive, innovative, and talented young pediatric cancer genome scientists. He will no doubt be a world leader in pediatric cancer."

Dr. Richard J. Gilbertson
University of Cambridge, England

"Based on his development and continued evolution as a scientist during the past 10+years that I have known him, I would not hesitate to rank Paul among the very best young scientists in oncology. With >100 peer reviewed publications to date, including two first author articles in Nature and more on the horizon, his solid track record speaks for itself."

Dr. Michael D. Taylor
The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto

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