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

Diagnostics, mass spectrometry &T- lymphocytes

Scientists at the University of Plymouth are set to take the next steps in major medical research after winning prestigious funding. The funding from the Wolfson Foundation means that teams at the university will benefit from a new state-of-the-art mass spectrometer. The machine is used in proteomics – the in-depth study of proteins – and will help to facilitate a wide range of research, including into brain tumours. It will enable researchers to analyse samples up to 10 times faster than their current technology permits, meaning accelerated results and potentially faster rollout of treatments. Professor Oliver Hanemann, Principal Investigator at our Plymouth Research Centre, said: “Access to  this modern mass spectrometer builds on the equipment we are able to employ in our brain tumour work. It will deliver speed to our protein analysis and this will translate into faster research insights and ultimately new treatments to patients being available sooner.”

Meningiomas are the most common intracranial tumours. Yet, only few controlled clinical trials have been conducted to guide clinical decision making, resulting in variations of management approaches across countries and centres. However, recent advances in molecular genetics and clinical trial results help to refine the diagnostic and therapeutic approach to meningioma. Accordingly, the European Association of Neuro-Oncology (EANO) has updated its recommendations for the diagnosis and treatment of meningiomas and these have just been published. We have recently reported on the progress that our Research Centre at the University of Plymouth is making to improve diagnosis and treatment for meningioma.

QV Bioelectronics – a UK based medical device start-up pioneering a first of its kind electric field therapy implant for glioblastoma multiforme – has announced it has received significant funding support through a recently completed seed investment round to advance the development of its innovative GRACE implant. The GRACE implant will aim to deliver electric therapy to prevent cancer cell division and slow tumour growth.

To fight a developing brain tumour, killer immune cells such as T lymphocytes must be activated and primed in our lymph nodes, before travelling to the tumour site to effectively kill the cancer cells. Because of the barriers around the brain, it is a challenging process for T lymphocytes to reach the tumour. In this study, researchers describe their discovery of structures similar to lymph nodes in the brain where T lymphocytes could be activated.

Last week we reported on how, for the first time, scientists have discovered stem cells of the hematopoietic system in glioblastomas. Very kindly Prof. Dr. Björn Scheffler Professorship for Translational Oncology at the German Cancer Consortium (DKTK) got in touch pointing out that I had neglected to include a hyperlink to the research which, with apologies to Professor Scheffler, I am now delighted to do. Please click through to find out how ‘Blood stem cells make brain tumours more aggressive’

In the culmination of a five-year collaborative study, a research team has mapped the genetics of medulloblastoma to find new pathways that existing drugs could potentially target. These are drugs already approved for other diseases or cancers but have never before been tested in paediatric brain tumours.

A small study has found that the ketogenic diet was safe and feasible for people with astrocytomas. All of the people had completed radiation treatment and chemotherapy. The study was not designed to determine whether the diet could slow down tumour growth or improve survival but it did show that the diet led to changes in the metabolism in the body and the brain. These astrocytoma cells rely on glucose, or sugar, to divide and grow. Since the ketogenic diet is low in sugar, the body changes what it uses for energy--instead of carbohydrates, it uses ketones. Normal brain cells can survive on ketones, but the theory is that cancer cells cannot use ketones for energy. This will be read with interest by Dr Nelofer Syed at our Imperial College, London centre as she has a long-standing research interest in metabolic pathways.

Finally, the British Neuro Oncology Society ( BNOS) annual conference concludes today (Friday) and the Brain Tumour Research centres have been very visible with posters and presentations ranging from imaging to survivorship and quality of life and including the Fibulin 2 research at Plymouth that we have already reported on as a research breakthrough that could spare meningioma patients surgery.

Next week we will reveal who has won the young investigator award that we co-sponsor with BNOS.

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