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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

We are an National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) partner and from the NCRI comes news of a clinical trial that asks “Could drug treatment combined with targeted radiotherapy improve prognosis for patients with brain metastases?” If radiotherapy does prove effective at disrupting the blood-brain barrier, it might provide an effective, safe and important strategy to improve treatment for patients with cancer that has spread to the brain, including brain tumours that are inoperable.

A US based virologist grew interested in the myxoma virus because it is extremely deadly in European rabbits but virtually harmless in non-rabbit hosts — including humans. He began testing its ability to infect lab-grown cells and made a startling discovery." If we take this virus and put it onto cancer cells … the virus treated them just like rabbit cells, it infected them, killed them, in a way that was really quite dramatic," With those results, the idea to use the virus as a cancer treatment was born.  To test the virus' ability to treat cancer animal models that had an aggressive form of brain cancer called glioblastoma were treated with the virus producing a dramatic result: All of them survived with no traces of glioblastoma left.

The bold claim of this study is that  “Our work shows that CBD has the potential to provide an effective, synergistic glioblastoma therapy option and that it should continue to be vigorously studied.”

In industry news China NMPA Approves Optune® for the Treatment of Newly Diagnosed and Recurrent Glioblastoma – this treatment is not currently licensed in the UK and is only available in certain centres at significant cost.

As reported on in our Latest news page earlier this week “New Tessa Jowell centres promise improved quality of life care for adults with brain tumours” keep an eye on our blog for comment from the Chair of our Science and Medical Advisory Board, Garth Cruickshank this weekend.

Radiation is a key component of the standard-of-care treatment for glioblastoma; however, the treatment is rarely curative. While the growth of glioblastoma cells is often stalled by radiation, tumour growth inevitably resumes in nearly all treated patients. Researchers are studying radiation resistance in brain tumour cells  because "Understanding how cancer cells acquire resistance to radiation defines a pathway forward for how to  defeat this cancer".

This article is behind a paywall but looks at an issue that has slowed the use of artificial intelligence in medicine. Machine learning models need to be trained on lots of diverse data from hospitals around the world — but those hospitals are often reluctant to share their data due to privacy concerns, legal issues, and a cautious culture. A promising way to get around that problem is a technique known as federated learning, which allows models to be trained without having to share data to a central server or in the cloud. Now, the approach is being put to the test in an ambitious project to build an AI system from thousands of brain tumour scans from several dozen hospitals and research institutions around the globe. 

Finally this is a fascinating article, and all of it worthy of a lazy, lockdown read, but if you scroll down you can find out about a current clinical trial in the US for Tozuleristide (BLZ-100), a kind of “tumour paint” derived from scorpion venom. This drug selectively binds to brain tumour cells, but not healthy ones allowing brain surgeons to more easily see cancerous tissue during surgery. It is likely to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within two years.

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