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National brain tumour research funding needs to increase to £30-35 million a year

Weekly pick of brain tumour research news from around the world

Here is a recently published paper co-authored by Professor’s Hanemann and Parkinson at our Plymouth research centre reporting the identification of the RNA-binding protein HuR/ELAVL1 as a central oncogenic ( causing development of a tumour or tumours) driver for malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours (MPNSTs), which are highly aggressive sarcomas that originate from cells of the Schwann cell lineage. It is highly scientific (of course) but really worth looking at for a sense of the amount of work and the collaborative nature of producing academic papers – this one is published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation which has an impact factor of 12, an impact factor of over 10 is considered excellent.

US scientists have combined three immunotherapy agents to achieve impressive results that they liken to long-term remission in human patients.  The tumour type under investigation is GBM and the study lead says “we’re talking potentially about a significant proportion of patients who could be cured. Bridging the innate and adaptive immune systems could prove to be a major advance for GBM.”

Scientists have taken important steps toward figuring out how to use immune therapy for a group of severe paediatric brain tumours known as atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumours. This is all about the identification of a molecular target that enables engineered, cancer-fighting immune cells to recognize and attack the tumours while leaving healthy brain tissue alone. Using mouse models, the researchers also showed that giving the cancer-fighting cells directly into the brain was safer and more effective than administering the cells in a vein. The discovery will help the scientists plan upcoming human clinical trials.

Two paediatric brain cancers that are challenging to treat if they recur, medulloblastoma and ependymoma, are the target of a clinical trial using a new type of therapy. This is a novel approach that delivers appropriately-targeted chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy directly into the cerebrospinal fluid that surrounds the tumour. This is described as “ a   promising new treatment for recurrent paediatric brain cancer.” This project was led by Dr. Laura Donovan, at the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto. Laura’s career began at our Portsmouth centre where she studied under, the recently retired, Professor Geoff Pilkington.

Another study has found that CBD may be an effective treatment against brain tumours – we have reported on a number of similar studies in recent months but what caught our eye here was that this study analysed both human and dog glioblastoma cells, for whatever reasons, they are  quite similar in both dogs and humans.

Finally with the research we fund in jeopardy due to Covid – 19 and resultant drop in fundraising here are some sobering words from Professor Silvia Marino, Professor of Neuropathology, the first female President of the British Neuro-Oncology Society (BNOS) and the Principal Investigator at our Queen Mary University of London Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence:

 ”Much needed new therapeutic approaches for brain tumour patients are on the horizon and proofs of principle have been established. We are on the road, via clinical trials, to taking learnings from the scientist’s bench to benefits at the patient’s bedside.

A halt in research funding now would halt this progress, it would wipe out significant investments of many years. It would be nothing short of a tragedy.

 Furthermore, the loss of charitable funding would have huge impact on any ability to rebuild post Covid -19. This funding has enabled us to train and nurture the brightest minds in this uniquely complex area. Should there be a break in funding they would be forced to move elsewhere. For the first time we have been able to build capacity and that would be lost, as would our ability to rebuild quickly.

A break in funding for brain tumour research now would have a devastating impact for years and years.”

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