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

Funding announcement, neurogliomal synapses and Group 3 MYC

by Hugh Adams


Some great news to begin with as Brain Tumour Research announces major funding boost for childhood tumours. Supported by our member charity the Children’s Brain Tumour Foundation an investment of £144,000 is being made to increase the team at our Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University London (QMUL) where Professor Silvia Marino and her research group are studying the epigenetics of medulloblastoma. The research will also impact on other childhood brain tumours, including ependymoma.

Scientists have found a new biochemical connection between brain tumours and the epileptic seizures that occur along with brain cancer and these pathways could be used as targets for new treatments. The discoveries made by a German research team showed a loop of cause and effect in that epileptic seizures caused by glioblastoma also accelerate the growth of the glioblastoma. Neurogliomal synapses (special railways that connect neurons with gliomas) use glutamate to communicate and this could provide a new treatment target because there are already drugs available that can regulate communication between neurons, which could reduce the damage this loop causes.

The largest early-phase drug development programme for brain cancer in the world, has announced the dosing of its first patient in a first-in-human Phase 0 clinical trial of sonodynamic therapy (SDT), a non-invasive drug-device combination. This study which combines metabolic targeting of glioblastoma with inert drug activated using MRI-guided focused ultrasound aims to develop a new non-invasive treatment option for patients with recurrent glioblastoma (rGBM) and other high-grade gliomas.

Two published studies have shown experimental drug approaches that target vulnerabilities in cancer cell metabolism may extend survival and enhance the effectiveness of standard chemotherapies for a subset of paediatric medulloblastoma patients with tumours known as Group 3 MYC-amplified medulloblastoma In these patients, the cancer-promoting MYC oncogene drives cancer cell growth by altering cancer cell metabolism. Cancer cells use energy in ways that are different from normal cells, so they are potentially vulnerable to therapies that target the abnormal metabolic pathways downstream of MYC.

This update could be read in tandem with the recent news of the breakthrough in understanding the metabolism of Medulloblastoma made by Professor Marino at our Queen Mary University of London(QMUL) centre.

Industry news as Novocure announces a clinical trial collaboration with GT Medical Technologies to evaluate Tumour Treating Fields together with GammaTile Therapy in recurrent Glioblastoma

For the first time Japan is expected to approve a drug for virotherapy treatment. Teserpaturev will be used to treat patients with malignant glioma and uses a virus to track down and destroy cancer cells inside a patient.

Yesterday our Chief Exec Sue spoke at an evidence session on brain tumour and childhood cancer research at which DIPG was mentioned many times ( see the video recording here) and as, May 17th  was  DIPG awareness day too,  this is a timely blog piece written by paediatric neuro-oncologist Professor David Walker on the brainstem gliomas of childhood.  

In the final University College London (UCL) Brain Cancer Seminar Series of this academic year on Wednesday 2nd June 2021 from 12-1pm there will be presentations: by Dr Jamie Dean (UCL) on how mathematical modelling reveals an improved radiotherapy administration schedule for glioblastoma and from  Peter Dirks - Professor of Neurosurgery and Molecular Genetics (University of Toronto) & Chief of Neurosurgery (Hospital for Sick Children) who will be tracing developmental origins and maintenance of glioblastoma. It will be on Zoom with links being shared nearer to the event date but you can register to attend here.

Related Reading

Our research strategy 
“Research must continue and intensify” says Health Minister