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

New GBM research pipeline and being glad

I am very pleased to begin this week’s update with news that work just published from our Queen Mary University of London research centre could pave the way for truly personalised treatment for patients diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). The team there has established an entirely new experimental research pipeline to analyse cells derived from brain tumour tissue and compare these with their putative cell of origin from the same patient. Using this powerful technique, they have been able to identify changes in the function of genes that occur in glioblastoma that do not entail a change in the genetic code. Led by Professor Silvia Marino, this clever method has revealed new insights for how glioblastoma develops and identified potential new targets for individualised treatments.

By using a combination of laboratory work and sophisticated analytical computer programmes the team at the Research Centre have identified significant molecular differences that potentially can be exploited to develop new treatments. This innovative approach enables the comparison of normal and malignant cells from the same patient, helping to identify genes that play a role in glioblastoma growth.

There exists strong evidence that glioblastoma cells develop from neural stem cells. However, previous studies have not been able to compare tumour cells and normal cells from the same person. In this study, Professor Marino’s team harnessed state-of-the-art stem cell technologies and next-generation DNA sequencing methods to compare glioblastoma cells with neural stem cells from the same patient. Their results have shown how this approach can reveal novel molecular events that go awry when glioblastoma develops, thereby identifying targets for potentially new treatments. Indeed, the team has revealed how some glioblastomas control the movement of regulatory T cells. Moreover, this new approach has identified relevant epigenetic changes that predict response to drugs currently in clinical use. This important finding opens-up opportunities to investigate potential new treatments for glioblastoma.

This is the first time that a comprehensive analysis has been conducted comparing the epigenetic differences between a patient’s neural stem cells and glioblastoma cells. Further research is required to determine whether this novel approach – called SYNGN (syngeneic comparison of GIC and iNSC) – can be of value to the clinical management of patients with glioblastoma.

The paper is entitled ‘Comparative epigenetic analysis of tumour initiating cells and syngeneic EPSC-derived neural stem cells (SYNGN) in glioblastoma’ and is published by Nature Communications

Other brain tumour papers of note published this week include work investigating geographical variations in brain/central nervous system (CNS) cancer incidence and mortality and another looking at a distinct subset of paediatric-type supratentorial neuroepithelial tumours

The National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is currently seeking patient and carer representatives (‘consumers’) to represent the patient community on the Children’s Research Group, and its 6 associated Subgroups. Two subgroups are responsible for developing research in the Central Nervous System (CNS) and Neuroblastoma.

If you would like to find out more visit the website. The deadline for all applications is Sunday 7th November (23:59pm).

On Tuesday 16 November 2021 - 12:30-13:15 (GMT)  Professor Simona Parrinello from University College London (UK), will chair a meeting focused on the importance of translational science in cancer research, specifically in the study of brain cancer, including primary brain tumours (such as glioblastoma) and brain metastasis. Dr Joan Seoane from the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (Spain), whose work has been recognised with several awards, will share how his multidisciplinary team of researchers have been looking at the molecular processes that appear with the onset of brain cancer and trying to find treatments to combat it.

We have been working with the actor Phoebe Frances Brown’s who tells her story of finding herself in the bleakest of times and of discovering gladness in the saddest of moments in her one woman play ‘The Glad Game’.

Phoebe was diagnosed with a large, grade 3 astrocytoma in 2018 after experiencing symptoms, including headaches and tiredness. The incurable tumour is in the area of her brain which controls speech, language and memory. Despite going through surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, Phoebe has continued to forge a successful career on the stage.

The play, which Phoebe began writing whilst in hospital recovering from brain surgery, aims to debunk some of the myths around what life is like for people, particularly young people, living with cancer. It is about a life lived with cancer, but also about creating the life you want in the most difficult of circumstances. There are plans for it to tour in Autumn 2021 and Spring 2022, and Brain Tumour Research is supportive of this play as the charity partner.

She said: “I wanted to write and perform a play about life being stranger than fiction; that even after receiving the most devastating news, there’s still hilarity and joy to be had. There are still things to be glad about.”

There is a digital edition of ‘The Glad Game’ which can be downloaded and watched until the end of October. A truly exceptional depiction of the patient experience and essential viewing for those researching in this area who wish to get a real understanding of what a brain tumour diagnosis brings.

The next research update will be on 5th November.

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