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

Predisposition, podcasts and GLOW

by Hugh Adams

Everything we do activates neurons in the brain but for people predisposed to developing brain tumours could the ordinary activity of their brains be a problem? New research shows that the normal day-to-day activity of neurons can drive the formation and growth of brain tumours.  The co – senior author of this research says "As neurologists, we have been treating overactive neurons for decades with drugs. One of the directions our laboratories are pursuing is repurposing some of those drugs to see if we can shut off unwanted activity, maybe just for a short developmental period, and prevent brain tumours from forming.”

This is a short but informative Q & A with a researcher on Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells and their use for the treatment of Glioblastoma.  The answer isn’t clear cut  with various factors still limiting the efficacy of this immunotherapy in brain tumour patients.

A podcast entitled “ Sharing learning between childhood leukaemia and brain tumour trials”  will interest many of you reading this and considering that one of the two contributors is Professor David Walker then it is worth reproducing the full explanatory paragraph promoting the podcast in full; “Over the last 50 years, advances in surgical procedures, clinical understandings and targeted treatments have changed the prospects of many cancer diagnoses from terminal to treatable. However, this progress is not evenly distributed across the many different types of cancer, and nowhere is that more keenly felt than in cancers affecting children.  How might the advances and insights in treating blood cancers benefit patients with brain tumours?”

News from Holland now, proudly shared with me by a Dutch brain tumour charity, as a new grant has been given to aid investigation into the added value of whole genome sequencing on tumour tissue obtained from glioblastoma patients during a routine operation for a first relapse after standard treatment with chemo– and radiotherapy. The goal of the GLioblastoma targeted treatment Option maximisation by Whole genome sequencing (GLOW) project is to find suitable treatments with targeted medication as well as additional treatment options.

News from US based clinical trials here as Larotrectinib delivers positive responses and disease control rates in patients with TRK fusion-positive CNS tumours. It has also been recorded as well tolerated by patients. In another recent trial the first treated patient survived 15.6 months post-diagnosis compared to an expected median overall survival of 10 months given multiple poor prognostic factors. IN8bio completed its treatment of first cohort in Phase 1 Clinical Trial with Gamma Delta T-Cell Therapy in patients with newly diagnosed Glioblastoma Multiforme. The drug was well tolerated too and cohort 2 of the study are enrolling for multiple repeat doses.

Another podcast to access here is talking about the difficulties of treating brain cancer and the promise that mRNA vaccines hold. Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine technology has become almost a household name in the past year. Two COVID-19 vaccines, by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, employ this technology but mRNA vaccine research also has strong roots in the cancer field.

Incorporating functional MRI (fMRI) into brain tumour resection planning can help reduce the possibility of negative outcomes patients might experience after surgery meaning using fMRI is an effective way to safeguard brain cancer patient’s health. Results suggest that pre-operative functional (fMRI) mapping results in a lower risk for delayed or permanent neurologic deficits that persists after a two-month follow-up period when compared with surgery without pre-operative fMRI and that it should therefore be considered as the standard-of-care for brain tumour surgery, even with small tumour volumes.

To find out about the state of the art (I try to resist saying ‘cutting edge’) surgical techniques being used by Consultant Neurosurgeon Kevin O’Neill, the Principal Investigator at our Imperial College London Research Centre, including papers on the intraoperative work being under taken there click here

Although this update on how heterogeneous delivery across the blood-brain barrier limits the efficacy of an EGFR-targeting antibody drug conjugate in glioblastoma, is too in depth for me I was drawn to the comment within the text that said “understanding the mechanisms of failure for this promising strategy is critically important.”  I can’t remember who I first heard this from but I have always remembered the quote that “The only failed clinical trial is one from which nothing is learned.”

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