By Steve Blanchard - October 16, 2023
Louisiana State University announced earlier this month that defensive back Greg Brooks Jr. was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer that is the most common malignant brain tumor diagnosed in pediatric cases. The 22-year-old had surgery to remove it.
Brooks’ doctors shared that the surgery was successful and there is no evidence that the cancer spread. He is working daily in physical therapy and will face months of intensive rehabilitation.
“Medulloblastoma accounts for approximately 10% of all primary tumors of the central nervous system among children less than 19 years of age,” Beer Furlan said. “The peak incidence is between 5 and 9 years of age.”
This type of brain cancer is rare in adults, but Moffitt has treated young adults with the condition.
The more common type of brain cancer in adults is glioblastoma, which typically impacts patients in their 50s or 60s.
Like most tumors, medulloblastoma occurs randomly. However, Beer Furlan said that 5% to 6% of children with medulloblastoma have mutations in specific genes that predisposes them to cancers.
“Although a large majority of medulloblastomas are sporadic, the likelihood of cancer predisposition mutation varies by molecular group,” he said.
Young adults and children who have medulloblastomas usually show symptoms connected to intracranial pressure, such as morning or nocturnal headaches, nausea, vomiting and altered mental status. Those symptoms usually evolve over a period of weeks or months.
Where the tumor develops can also impact the symptoms, Beer Furlan said.
“Tumors in the midline may cause truncal instability whereas tumors affecting the lateral cerebellar hemispheres are more likely to cause incoordination,” he said.
If cerebrospinal fluid pathways become blocked and increase cranial pressure, emergency surgery is necessary.
While Brooks has started rehabilitation, he was recently transferred to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, and will need another surgery. LSU coach Brian Kelly said a fund set up to support Brooks’ treatment has raised “well over six figures” in donations.
“What has been inspirational, heartwarming has been the national support,” Kelly told ESPN, pointing out the well wishes from across the country and the helmet stickers worn by Arkansas and Missouri in support of Brooks.
Beer Furlan said treatment in children depends on two main factors: risk of recurrence and risk for treatment toxicity.
“The preferred approach in most patients includes a combination of surgical resection, radiation therapy to the tumor site and sometimes the craniospinal axis, and systemic chemotherapy,” Beer Furlan said.