Our International Peer Reviewers

The role of the International Peer Reviewers is to:

  • Provide an external viewpoint with no vested interest
  • Comment on the applications, based on our criteria and conditions
  • Assess the experience and track record of the Lead Investigator in establishing a world-class research programme

Peer Reviewers are asked to confirm that they have no conflict of interest, provide an overall programme rating and specifically rate and comment on the:

  • Importance and relevance of the area of research and its contribution to the brain tumour research arena
  • Proposed programme of research, with reference to its concept, aims, approach and methodology
  • Ability of the lead applicant / group to work collaboratively with other institutions in the UK and internationally
  • Suitability of the group’s existing facilities and equipment for the proposed programme of work
  • Funding plan and whether it is realistic for the proposed programme of work, commenting on the costs of staff, consumables and essential equipment / facilities
  • Lead applicants level of peer reviewed publications over the last five years, in journals of appropriate high impact to Neuro-oncology
  • Details provided concerning specific ethics permissions for use of brain tumour tissue, including confirmation that the centre has access to tissue provided by a Centre with a Human Tissue Act (HTA) licence
  • Proposed programme of work identifying whether there are any major defects or whether they can foresee any major obstacles that the lead applicant / group may encounter and whether they will experience difficulties in gaining access to necessary materials, tissues, data, etc
  • Proposal in respect of any other aspects not covered above, detailing any questions that should be put to the lead applicant before a funding decision is made

The Panel of Experts:

Professor Dr Christel Herold-Mende - Germany

Professor Christel Herold-Mende graduated at Ruprecht-Karls University in Heidelberg, Germany in Biology and Chemistry (1991) and performed her PhD at the ENT-Department, University Hospital Heidelberg (1995). She worked as a research fellow at the German Cancer Research Center, Department of Cytopathology (1994-1995) and at the Department of Applied, Experimental and Interdisciplinary Oncology, Ruhr University, Bochum, Germany (1996) in the area of intra- and extracranial head and neck tumors.

In 1996 she initiated the Molecular Cell Biology Group at the ENT Department and the Molecular Laboratory at the Department of Neurosurgery, University Hospital Heidelberg with a strong focus on the development of immunotherapies, the identification of new biomarkers and the characterization of tumor stem cells in head and neck tumors and gliomas. After her habilitation in 2006 she became head of the Division of Neurosurgical Research and in 2012 Professor for Experimental Neurosurgery at Heidelberg University. She is coordinating the local brain tumor tissue bank within the National Center for Tumor Diseases Heidelberg (NCT).

As part of the biobanking activities her group serves as a strong bridge between clinicians and colleagues from the surrounding research institutes. In addition, Christel Herold-Mende is member of the NCT Advisory Board “Molecular Diagnostics” and of the advisory committee of the NCT tissue bank. She was awarded with the Sybille Assmus Price (2004), the Clinical Science Award of the German Society for Immunotherapy (2005), was part of the winning team of the HGF ideas competition “Stem Cells and Gliomas” (2005), and won the EANO IX Poster Award in the field of “Immunology and Immunotherapy (2010).

Her research is published in 120 international, peer-reviewed journals. Since 1995 she served as ad hoc reviewer for more than 40 journals including Coordination Chemistry Reviews, Cancer Research, Clinical Cancer Research, Brain, Cell Research, Glia, Oncogene, Neuro-Oncology, PLOS ONE, International Journal of Cancer (IJC), Journal of Pathology, and Acta Neuopathologica. She is member of the editorial board of the Open Dentistry Journal, Drugs and Therapy Studies, World Journal of Stem Cells (WJSC), International Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Frontiers in Head and Neck Cancer, The Scientific World Journal (TSWJ), and the World Journal of Stomatology (WJS).

Also, she has reviewed proposals from UK Cancer, the German Research Foundation, the Genesis Oncology Trust, the Israel Science Foundation, Neurosurgical Research Foundation within the DGNC, AICR, CCC Medical University Vienna, Medical Faculty Aachen, Research Funding “START”, Institut Clinique de la Souris –ICS, Mouse Clinical Institute – MCI Strasbourg, France, The Brain Tumour Charity, UK, Brain Tumour Research, UK and the Estonian Research Council (ETAg).

Professor David Schiffer - Italy

Born in Verzuolo (CN) he obtained a degree in Medicine at the University of Turin, summa cum laude. He specialised in Neurology, becoming an Assistant Professor (1965-71) and Associate Professor (1971-1975) and then a Full Professor of Neurology, University of Turin. 1975-2000. His current role is Professor Emeritus in Neurology, University of Turin.
He was Chief of the Department of Neuroscience and Director of Post-graduate School of Neurology 1996-2000 and has been active in the Hirnforschungsinstut (Neustadt, Germany) 1955; Karolinska Institute of Stockholm, 1966; Bunge Institute of Antwerpen, 1967; in many Institutions in USA; he was active also in the BTSG (Brain Tumor Study Group) Bethesda 1977 - 1982); and was President of the Italian Association of Neuro-oncology 1992-1998 and of the Italian Association of Neuropathology 1993-1999 becoming Vice-President of the International Society of Neuropathology, 1997-2000. He is a Member of the Neuropathology Societies of Italy, France, Germany, United States.

David has written five hundred scientific publications mostly in international journals and published two treatises of Neurology and Neuropathology and five books on Brain Tumors. Three have been published by Springer Verlag. He is a member of the Editorial Board of 10 international journals.

His principal fields of research are: Neuropathology and Neuro-oncology, in the areas of pathology, immunohistochemistry, molecular genetics, in vitro cultures etc. Experimental Neuro-oncology, Neurodegenerative diseases, Aging and Cell Neurobiology. The main subjects were: tumor proliferation mechanisms, apoptosis, oxidative and hydrolytic enzymology, molecular pathways in relation with different tissue events, cancer stem cells, tumor prognosis, effects of radiotherapy etc.

Professor Geoffrey J Pilkington BSc PhD CBiol FSB FRCPath - UK

Geoff has spent his entire career in brain tumour research, having started work on chemical neuro-carcinogenesis where he studied brain cancer stem cells and brain tumour development at the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, London, in the early 1970s and subsequently spent 23 years at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London, latterly as Professor of Experimental Neuro-oncology. 

In 2003, he moved to the University of Portsmouth where he took over as Director of Research of the School of Pharmacy & Biomedical Sciences, Head of the Cellular and Molecular Research Division of Institute of Biomedical and Biomolecular Sciences and Professor of Cellular & Molecular Neuro-oncology. He now concentrates on his role as Head of the Brain Tumour Research ‘Centre for Cellular and Molecular Neuro-oncology’ at Portsmouth as well as being immediate Past President of the British Neuro-oncology Society and an Executive Board Member of the European Association of Neuro-oncology. He had also previously served for a number of years on the Committee of the British Neuropathological Society as Programme Secretary. In addition, he holds membership of the Society of Neuro-Oncology (USA) and the British Neuroscience Association and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, a Fellow of the Society of Biology and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.

His research focuses on the development of models for the study of intrinsic brain tumours, elucidation of their metabolism and mechanisms underlying diffuse local invasive behaviour as well as development of novel strategies for mitochondrial mediation of apoptosis in glioma, delivery of agents across the blood-brain barrier and genetic regulation of metastatic spread of cancers to the brain. He has successfully supervised 31 PhD students as well as examining another 33 at various universities within the UK and Europe. He has acted as a reviewer for 55 different scientific/medical journals and is currently on the editorial board of four international journals. 

In addition, he has been a reviewer for 26 UK grant giving bodies and 8 overseas bodies. He is currently on the cancer grants review panel for the Norwegian Research Council and is a member of the scientific advisory board for Children with Cancer UK. He is also a regular attendee at the quarterly All Party Parliamentary Group meetings on Brain Tumours at Westminster and three years ago established the South of England Brain Tumour Alliance which brings together seven centres across the region where brain tumour research, diagnosis and therapy is carried out in order to maximize research data from minimal tissue and cell resources and to fast track lab-based research towards translational medicine and clinical trials.

Dr. Jaishri Blakeley - USA

An Associate Professor in Neurology, Oncology and Neurosurgery (Neuro-oncology), Dr Jaishiri Blakely is Director of the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Neurofibromatosis Center (JHCNFC), Director of the Neurofibromatosis Therapeutic Acceleration Program and a member of the Adult Brain Tumor Consortium and the Department of Defense Neurofibromatosis Clinical Trials Consortium.

Dr. Blakeley’s research interests are in the development of clinical trials for nervous system tumors and specifically, in early clinical translational studies including tumor pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic investigations. She is currently the national chairperson for two clinical trials for patients with malignant gliomas and 2 clinical trials for patients with neurofibromatosis type 2 associated vestibular schwannomas. Her research is supported by the National Cancer Institute: Cancer Therapy Evaluation Program, foundation awards such as the Career Development Award from the American Society for Clinical Oncology, the Children’s Tumor Foundation clinical trial award and industry research collaborations.

Dr Jaishri Blakely has also invested in developing new diagnostic techniques for brain cancer and has been the clinical translational investigator on an R21 and RO1 award to develop amide proton transfer magnetic resonance imaging for distinguishing active tumor from treatment effect. She focuses her clinical efforts on the diagnosis and management of primary brain tumors in adults such as glioblastoma multiforme, anaplastic astrocytoma, anaplastic oligodendroglioma and low grade gliomas and in the care of patients with neurofibromatosis types 1 and 2 and schwannomatosis. She has been awarded both the Thomas Preziosi Award for Clinical Excellence in Neurology and the Frank Ford Memorial Neurology Teaching Award.

Professor Leo De Ridder I.F.J.M. - Belgium

Having become a medical doctor in 1965 with R U Gent, Leo de Ridder decided to specialise in Nuclear Medicine and Radiotherapy in 1970. He became a Research Assistant in the faculty of medicine in experimental morphology and oncology in 1965 to1974, gaining a PhD: Experimental research in vitro (1974): Determining Role of Host tissue during the Invasion Process by Malignant Cells. Having been a full Time Researcher in laboratory for experimental radiobiology and oncology Leo became an Associate Professor UGent, head of dept Histology in 1981.

Between 1990 and 2004 Leo was professor and senior full professor: Chair for morphological sciences in faculty of medicine and Head of department of Anatomy, Histology, Embryology and Medical Physics (1992-2004), Since 2004 Prof. Emeritus.

Leo taught Histology and Cell biology/ fac. Medicine/U Gent (1981-2004) and Biomedical techniques and cell culture /fac. Medicine (1990-2004). Regular international teaching assignments have included Organotypical culture methodology/Paris (1991-2003) and Professor exchange programme in histology/Leyden (1991-1993)

His Scientific Activities have included: Supervisor of PhD theses: 14 PhD’s (1994-2004), 152 Publications A1 level, Editor and co-editor of 12 Books/ Chapters in Handbooks and 6 Memberships of Scientific Editorial boards.

Research has included: Experimental cell biology in the frame of tumour biology in vitro, Scientific and longstanding collaboration with: Heidelberg (Deutsches Krebsforschungs Institut), London(Chester Beatty research unit), Paris (Val de Marne),Bergen(Gade Institut Norway), Ljubeljana University(Slovenia), Montreal (Mc Gill university Canada) involving: Research on invasiveness in vitro and radiobiology (1965-1981), Experimental cell and tissue culture (1982-2008), Histomorphological studies on brain tumours and related neurohistological pathology (1981- on going)

Leo is an organiser and participant of international symposia and congresses on cell biology, experimental oncology and radiobiology, Chairman / secretary or representative of different international scientific societies: Cell Tissue Organ Culture society (founder-secretary), New York Academy of Sciences (Belgian representative), Glial Invasion Forum. European Association for Neuro-oncology, European Tissue Culture Association, International Association for Histochemie, British association of neurological sciences, Belgian Society for cell Biology, Belgische vereniging voor laboratorium techologie.

His Clinical Activities have embraced activity in nuclear medicine / radiotherapy (1970-2003), with special assignments: 1974-1982: Representative for the scientific medical personnel of the U Gent in the scientific commission of the university; 1985-1990: Information coordinator of the faculty of medicine; 1991-1992: Teaching Histology on behalf of the medical faculty in Rwanda Cooperation agreement Gent-Butare 1992 to date: Member of the VLIR commission for’ Own Initiatives’, 1994-2000 : Promoter of the Own Initiatives programme for Cambodia “Organisation and structuring of medical faculty in Phnom-Penh”, 2002-2004: South Initiative in Rwanda “Visiting teachers programme”, 2005-2009: Coordinator for the VLIR project promoted by the dean of the medical faculty of the U Gent in NURwanda “Upgrading the medical faculty of the NURwanda”, 2008: Teaching radiobiology in the international course for African radioprotectionists sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency. / South Africa, 2009: Member of the “unofficial” advisory group of “professors emeriti“ on development and internationalisation.

Professional teaching and support activities have included: Cell biology/histology and embryology courses in the International Academy of Osteopathy/University of Wales; Post academic teaching for physiotherapists: embryology course; Scientific support for postgraduates in the domain of histology and histopathology preparing their Ph.D.; Member of the advisory board on internationalisation for the Ghent university ; Member of the VLIR commission for “Own Initiatives” since 1992 representing U Gent.

Professor Rolf Bjerkvig PhD - Switzerland

Dr. Bjerkvig is Professor in Cell Biology at the University of Bergen, Norway and is head of the Oncology Department at the Centre de Recherche Public de la Santé in Luxembourg. (www.norlux.lu). Bjerkvig has acted as a vice chairman, and chairman of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology as well as chairman of the department of Biomedicine, University of Bergen, Norway. He has also acted a co-director of the National Gene Therapy Programme in Norway. He has coordinated the Integrated project Angiotargeting within the 6th framework programme of the European Commission involving 13 European Research Institutions.

Bjerkvig has served in numerous national and international committees related to cancer research, which includes evaluation committees for the Norwegian Research Council, the Norwegian Cancer Society, the Swedish Research Council, Swedish and Finnish centers of excellence, The Karolinska Institute, the Luxembourg Forsight programme, as well as the European Commission.

Bjerkvig received his basic academic training at the Brain Tumor Research Center, University of California San Francisco. His main interests are to elucidate the mechanisms that cause tumour cell migration within the CNS. In later years his research group have also unraveled mechanisms associated with angiogenesis independent tumour growth and has shown that anti-angiogenic treatment leads to metabolic reprogramming events in the tumours. His, current research focuses on mechanisms of tumor angioegenesis and on finding combinatorial treatment principles that will affect metabolism and angiogenesis in brain tumors.

He receives major grants from the Norwegian Research Council, The Norwegian Cancer Society, Fond National Recherche in Luxembourg and the European Commission. He is on the editorial board on several international journals and is sitting in several national as well as international funding committees for cancer research in Europe. He has received a number of research prizes for his work:

Ruggero De Maria, MD - Italy

Ruggero De Maria graduated in Medicine in 1989 and specialized in Endocrinology in 1994. During his initial research career, he focused on immunology and autoimmunity. Later his research interests turned towards cell death in cancer and haematological diseases, while working at two major Universities of Rome and abroad. In 2000, he became Research Director of the Division of Biotechnologies at the National Health Institute in Rome, Italy before becoming Head of the Division of Oncological and Haematological Biotechnologies at the same Institute. From 2006, he serves as Affiliate Full Professor at the George Mason University (Virginia, USA), with whom he still collaborates within an Italy-USA Program on Oncoproteomics. Throughout the years, he has gained international recognition for his research activity on cancer stem cells (CSCs), a rare population of cells responsible for tumour initiation and growth. His research team was the first to isolate CSCs from colon, lung and thyroid cancers and develop innovative CSC-based preclinical models of these tumours. Moreover, he has published several seminal articles on glioblastoma stem cells.

Dr. De Maria was appointed Scientific Director of Regina Elena National Cancer Institute (Rome, Italy) by the Italian Minister of Health in November 2011 for a five year term. His role mainly includes managing the scientific activities between basic, translational and clinical researchers of six departments. His leadership consists in increasing scientific productivity among these clinician and basic scientists with government funding in order to meet the National targets bringing the Institute’s results in the international arena.

De Maria was elected President of the Italian ACC Association (Alleanza Contro il Cancro/Alliance in the fight against Cancer) in 2013 until 2018. He currently holds several Editorial Board positions on internationally renowned scientific journals such as Cell Death and Disease; Oncogene; Cell Death and Differentiation. He has published over 140 original peer-reviewed scientific articles and reviews in the most important journals including Nature; Science; Cancer; Nat Med; Nat Immunal; J Exp Med. De Maria also sits on various prestigious Advisory Board Committees such as the Pezcoller Foundation AACR International Award, AACR INNOVATOR Award, Veronesi Foundation, AIRC and InBev-BAILLET LATOUR Health Prize.

De Maria’s current research programs are centred on the molecular characterization of CSCs with the aim of discovering innovative biomarkers and molecular targets to improve cancer management and develop novel cancer therapies. Other research interests comprise the study of microRNA and the microenvironment in solid tumors.

Sean Lawler - USA

Bio coming soon

Professor Tamara T. Lah - Slovenia

Born in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Tamara holds a BS in Organic Chemistry, and a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Ljubljana.

She started and developed her scientific career at the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Josef Stefan Institute in Ljubljana, in 1980-1995. Since 1996 she has been Director of National Institute of Biology, Ljubljana and Head of Department of Genetic Toxicology and Cancer Biology. Since 1999 she is also Assoc. Professor at Biotechnical Faculty of Ljubljana University, teaching Biochemistry of Cancer and giving courses for graduate students of Tumour Biology at Medical Faculty programme Biomedicine.

Her professional career outside Slovenia has included: Visiting Research Assistant at University of Bonn Germany, Visiting Research Associate, at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, UK (sponsored by British Council for research Exchange), where she accomplished her PhD Thesis in the field of protein biochemistry. She gained her postdoctoral experiences and became an Assistant Professor at the Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit Michigan, USA, 1984-1987. From 1991-1994 she was appointed as Visiting Professor and Director of Metastasis Research Laboratory, Albert Einstein Medical Centre, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA. From 2013 to 2016 she is (part time) visiting scientist and teaching at University of SaoPaulo, Institute of Chemistry, Department of Biochemistry

Tamara’s basic research interests comprise the role of proteases and their inhibitors in physiological and pathological conditions and in particular in cancer. She contributed mostly to the elucidation of the role of lysosomal enzymes, cathepsins, particular the cysteine cathepsins B, L and S, as well as their endogenous inhibitors, in human tumours and tumour cells, such as breast and brain tumours, e.g. gliomas. All these have application in clinics, either in diagnosis or therapy as biomarkers: With respect to diagnosis she published several studies which demonstrated that cathepsin B has prognostic value in prognosis of relapse or survival and collaborated with the company KRKA that produced the diagnostic immunoassays.

She is also elected member of European Organisation of Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC). In carcinogenesis research, her group published recently on interesting mechanisms of arsenite (Trisenox) treatment of glioblastoma. Recent research and publications include a focus on the chemopreventive, as well as cytotoxic effects of natural flavonoids, such as xanthohumol and resveratrol. Recent efforts are focused more on possible use of selective cathepsins’ inhibitors along with chemo therapeutics. As the tumour microenvironment also contributes to cancer progression and related proteolysis, her recent research is focused on the cross –talk between tumour and stromal cells. Among them are also the stem cells, either originating from the tumours or normal tissue. Recently she is mostly involved in studying the cellular interactions of cancer associated stem cells at transcriptomics and proteomics levels, using systems biology approaches as well as the potential application of mesenchymal stem being carried out in collaboration with industrial partners.

Dr Verena Amberger-Murphy - Ireland

Dr Verena Amberger-Murphy has a Diploma in Biology from the University of Mainz, Germany (1988) and a PhD from the University of Zurich, Switzerland (1994). VM worked as a research fellow at the Max Planck Institute Martinsried, Munich, Germany (1988-1990), at the Brain Research Institute, Zurich, Switzerland (1990-1995) and at the London Health Science Centre in London/Ontario, Canada (1995-1998) in the area of brain research with a particular focus on brain tumours. At Zurich and at London she initiated collaborations with the Neurosurgery Department of the University Hospital (Zurich) or the London Health Science Centre to collect tumour tissue for research from patients, who underwent surgery. Her research is published in international, peer-reviewed journals.

After a career break to raise a family, she worked at the National Institute for Cellular Biotechnology (NICB)/Dublin City University, Ireland, as a senior research fellow (2002-2009). She introduced brain tumour research to the cancer program at the NICB and initiated two translational clinical trials with Beaumont Hospital Dublin, the National Referral Centre for Neurosurgery and Neurology in Ireland.

In Nov 2009 VM started to work as a Translational Research Coordinator at the Irish Oncology Research Group (ICORG) (www.icorg.ie), a partner in a Science Foundation Ireland funded strategic research cluster, ‘Molecular Therapeutics for Cancer Ireland (MTCI)’ (www.mtci.ie). In early 2012 she was promoted to Translational Research Manager heading the translational team in ICORG and her responsibilities include the coordination and management of the large portfolio of translational clinical trials (including two international trials) and the coordination of EU grant activity within ICORG. As part of a successful Framework 7 application called ‘ANGIOPREDICT’, she is currently coordinating a European Bioresource and a prospective clinical trial with participating clinical sites in Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Since early 1990 she served as ad hoc reviewer for European Journal of Neuroscience (1990-1996), European Journal of Neurosurgery, Acta Neurochirurgica (since 2000), Cancer Letter (since 2009) and for International Journal of Cancer (since 2010). Also she has reviewed proposals from the Framework 7 grant rounds, for European Science Foundation, Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research, Samantha Dickson Research Trust, SPARKS (Sport aiding medical Research for Kids) and Brain Tumour Research.

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