Approximately five out of 100,000 children from 0 to 19 years old are diagnosed with a brain tumor. These children are treated with medication designed for adults that are highly toxic to a developing brain. Those that survive are at high risk for a lifetime of limited physical, psychological, and cognitive abilities. Despite much effort, not one drug exists that was designed specifically for pediatric patients. Stagnant government funding and the lack of economic incentives for the pharmaceutical industry greatly limits preclinical research and the development of clinically applicable pediatric brain tumor models. As more data are collected, the recognition of disease sub-groups based on molecular heterogeneity increases the need for designing specific models suitable for predictive drug screening. To overcome these challenges, preclinical approaches will need continual enhancement. In this review, we examine the advantages and shortcomings of in vitro and in vivo preclinical pediatric brain tumor models and explore potential solutions based on past, present, and future strategies for improving their clinical relevancy.
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