October 2012: First of seven 'Centres of Hope' expands bid to beat brain tumours 


Inspired by our Chief Executive’s niece the Alison Phelan Memorial Laboratory was declared open on 31st October 2012, significantly increasing the size of the existing facility at the University of Portsmouth. Sue explains, “My niece Ali is the inspiration behind my passion to drive the research into brain tumours forward. My sister – Julie, and other members of our family and friends don’t want other families to have to go through what we went through. I still can’t believe how little funding goes into finding a cure for a disease that steals so many people’s futures. Our aim is to create a global network of research centres where knowledge and findings can be shared easily in order to make regular advancements towards a solution.”


Brain Tumour Research in collaboration with three of our member charities Ali’s Dream, Charlie’s Challenge and Headcase, jointly raised one million pounds in 2012 to support the laboratory which is led by Professor Geoff Pilkington, one of the worlds’ leading brain tumour research scientists. Other member charities Brainwaves NI and Levi’s Star have also contributed to the funds granted.


This much needed funding has enabled the development of the University's molecular neuro-oncology facility and the appointment of four additional posts, headed up by Principal Research Fellow Helen Filmore, a well-respected US brain specialist who joined Portsmouth from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Neurosurgery. This is the first of seven Centres that will open in the next few years, looking after projects from studies on high and low grade tumours to specific tumour types, affecting adults, children and both.


Professor Geoff Pilkington summarises the projects in hand,“One very promising area of our research is looking at how we can trigger particular brain tumour cells to destroy themselves.  Huge strides have been made in this area using both tricylic drugs and insect virus mediated gene therapy approaches. We can now make certain tumour cells self-destruct in some types of tumour and we are now working on trying to apply this to paediatric brain tumours. We are also very proud to say that we have created the first ever all-human blood brain barrier model to help develop nanoparticle drug delivery systems.”


He concludes, “This is, in over forty years in brain tumour research, perhaps the most exciting period of my career, in terms of the potential for development of both new bio- markers to determine patient outcome and novel therapeutic targets, which we hope will bring renewed hope for brain tumour patients. It’s fantastic to be part of such a dedicated team of experienced and talented people that are passionate about further developing the field.”


Brain Tumour Research aims to create a national network of research facilities that can eventually find a cure for this terrible disease, with another two due to be announced later in 2013.  Each Centre will require £1 million a year to fund it.

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