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

Comparative meningioma work from our Plymouth centre published - Worldwide research update

This week we are focussing on research news just published from our University of Plymouth research centre.

Their report was on the use of a complex data analysis to study key differences between high and low-grade meningioma that could lead to novel patient therapies or biomarker discovery.

Meningioma is the most common primary intracranial (within the skull) tumour, yet gaps in our understanding of the way they develop and grow persist. Management of aggressive, frequently recurring, high-grade, those graded by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as grade III, meningioma remains complicated. Further, the development of effective biomarkers and new therapeutic interventions are hampered by our incomplete knowledge surrounding their growth.

Essentially, without an improved understanding at the molecular level, effective treatments for aggressive meningioma are unlikely to be forthcoming.

The aim of the most recently published study from our Plymouth research centre was to outline differences in the molecular landscape between high-grade and low-grade (WHO grade I) meningioma by combining the data analyses of proteins and RNA from two independent studies. RNA, like DNA, is comprised of nucleic acid molecules. Along with lipids, proteins, and carbohydrates, nucleic acids constitute one of the four major very large molecules, essential for all known forms of life.

In the study, the team used an integrated ‘omics’ approach to analyse datasets. ‘Omics’ is a branch of science that involves the large-scale screening of groups of biological molecules such as genes (genomics), proteins (proteomics) and metabolites (metabolomics). These large datasets can then be combined, or integrated, to provide a detailed molecular overview of a disease. Indeed, this approach has been used here to deliver new and valuable insight into the altered gene expression profiles between high and low-grade meningioma.

In addition, their findings identified molecules that may hold potential as biomarkers or therapeutic targets of high-grade meningioma.

Overall, this study’s focus on the combined RNA and protein characterisation forms part of the route to a better molecular knowledge of meningioma with potential grade III biomarker and therapeutic significance.

You can read the full article "Integration and Comparison of Transcriptomic and Proteomic Data for Meningioma", which has been published in Cancers as part of the Special Issue Meningioma: Genomic Discoveries and Recent Therapeutic Advances.

Whilst reporting this news we thought it a good opportunity to ask the Principal Investigator at our University of Plymouth Research Centre, Professor Oliver Hanemann, about the impact of Covid 19 on the work of his team.

He told us: “In the Spring we were locked down for a short period and that actually provided an opportunity for the team to focus on reporting on their work. We are always busy with actual experimental research work, and to have this opportunity to concentrate just on recording and writing up results and conclusions was unexpected, but not entirely unwelcome. However, after a short break, we were one of the first scientific facilities at a UK University to return to lab-based work and that is where we have been ever since. Of course, all pandemic protocol is strictly observed but for brain tumour research being conducted at the University of Plymouth it is business as usual and with this being the third meningioma paper published since the pandemic struck and I am both pleased and proud of the work my team is undertaking and our partnership with Brain Tumour Research who I know are approaching the current situation with the same resilience as we are.”

Great stuff, and so vital that our community, from scientists and clinicians, and beyond to our campaigners and fundraisers, are aware of the impact of the work they are supporting. This follows hot on the heels of last week’s research at Imperial leading off the National Cancer Research Institute’s (NCRI) annual (virtual) conference – click here if you’d like to catch on this fascinating research.

We are really grateful to the team at Plymouth for the collaborative approach they bring to working with us in communicating what they are doing to take forward our vision of improving options and outcomes for brain tumour patients, and ultimately finding that cure we are so desperate for.

A couple of other snippets to end with;

A new three-dimensional imaging technique has been developed that greatly improves the visibility of brain tumours in MRI scans, potentially enabling earlier diagnosis of tumours when they are smaller and more treatable. The goal is for the new technique—T1RESS—to “help thousands of patients by allowing malignant tumours to be detected at an earlier, more curable stage," said inventor, lead author and Professor of Radiology Dr Robert Edelman

News now on non-invasive cancer tests which use liquid biopsy technology, a liquid biopsy test typically uses a blood sample with the goal of finding and identifying circulating tumour cells. Researchers have shown for the first time that the most prevalent mutation in malignant gliomas can be detected in blood, opening a new landscape for detection and monitoring of the tumours. The researchers believe that their test could be performed in most clinical laboratories and can be utilised to follow the course of disease in cancer patients. The researcher’s goal is to expand and adapt the blood test to diagnose, differentiate, and monitor other types of brain tumours in addition to gliomas

That’s it for this week – more next week and remember that if you’d like to have these weekly research updates emailed directly to you please let hugh@braintumourresearch.org know.

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