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

We are recruiting a Director of Research

Brain Tumour Research is strengthening its leadership team with the recruitment of a Director of Research, Policy and Innovation. The new Director will drive forward our manifesto for change, building capacity, accelerating treatments and increasing the national investment in brain tumour research. They will lead the development of the research and policy strategies, including the establishment of further Research Centres with a call planned in summer 2022. The closing date for this vacancy is Sunday 14th November.

A full job description can be found here.

Abnormal cell migration can facilitate the transport and spread of cancer cells within the body and glioblastoma is an example of a highly invasive brain tumour that spreads via migration of the tumour cells. The frequency at which such tumour cells spread and grow make conventional tumour removal methods ineffective. In order to develop improved therapeutic strategies, a precise understanding of the invasion mechanism of GBM cells is necessary and this could lead to ‘capturing’ migrating tumour cells. Cell migration is dictated by the structure and the orientation of the “extracellular matrix” (ECM) – fibrous structures surrounding the cells. By engineering similar structures, nanofibres that resemble the ECM, researchers are looking to examine their effect on GBM cells and exert control over the migration process.

This study is published in  ACS Applied Bio Materials .

Scientists have shown that cell-free DNA from cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) can be used to detect measurable residual disease (MRD) in children treated for medulloblastoma. The researchers developed a test to detect MRD, and thus the risk of relapse, earlier than a recurrent tumour would be identified using a traditional imaging scan. As a senior co-author reported With this test, we now know that if there is medulloblastoma cell-free DNA in the CSF at the end of therapy, then that patient is very likely to relapse. That gives us something we can act on, an opportunity to truly eradicate the disease before it has had a chance to relapse or re-emerge.”

The findings are published in  Cancer Cell.  

Researchers have developed a new test to more easily diagnose medulloblastoma but it can also distinguish between extremely high-risk medulloblastoma cases that need radiation therapy from those that are lower-risk and do not need radiation and so could help pave the way for personalized treatment options for children suffering from the disease. Given current testing limitations, all children with medulloblastoma receive the same type of treatment, meaning children with less-aggressive forms are unnecessarily exposed to toxic side effects of brain radio- and chemotherapies, often leading to permanent learning, physical and emotional disabilities. Meanwhile, children with the most aggressive forms of the disease may not receive treatments sufficient to cure the disease. The new test relies on an antibody-based technique called immunohistochemistry, which is widely available in clinical laboratories around the world.

This research was published in  Clinical Cancer Research.

As you will be aware, developing potential new treatments for medulloblastoma is a key focus of our Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University of London. In April, Professor Silvia Marino and her team reported on how inositol hexaphosphate (IP6), a naturally occurring compound present in almost all plants and animals, inhibits medulloblastoma through suppression of epigenetic-driven metabolic adaptation. The paper was published in Nature Communications and could see a breakthrough in the way that children with medulloblastoma are treated in future.

Pre-clinical research carried out in São Paulo has shown that three injections with the Zika virus affected brain tumours without causing neurological damage or damage to other organs. As part of this research scientists also injected Zika into an organ similar to the human brain created in vitro with stem cells, called cerebral organoid, and detected that the virus prevented the progression of the tumour, even reducing it. In both models after treatment, the cytokines (proteins that regulate the immune response) suppressed the progression of the tumour and there was an increase in the migration of defence cells to the brain affected by the cancer, awakening the immune system to the existence of the tumour.

These results are published in Viruses.

News from the US of the opening of a Phase 0 clinical trial to evaluate niraparib (ZEJULA), an oral, once-daily poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitor from GSK, for patients with newly diagnosed glioblastoma (GBM) and recurrent glioma (grades II-IV). The Phase 0 clinical trial will enrol up to 42 participants divided into two groups, Arm A for newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients, and Arm B for recurrent glioma patients with IDH mutation and ATRX loss.

The next session in the UCL Brain Cancer Seminar Series is on Wednesday 1 December from 12-1pm via Zoom The presentations will be from Consultant Neurologist (UCL/UCLH) Jeremy Rees – ‘Low Grade Glioma - a 20 year retrospective and lessons for us all’ and from PhD Candidate & PGY6 Resident (UoT) Suganth Suppiah – ‘An integrative molecular classification of peripheral nerve sheath tumours’ To register, please visit the Eventbrite page.

Another lecture, this time from the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI), is on 16th November at 12:30 for 45 minutes and features Dr Joan Seoane from the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (Spain), presenting on the importance of translational science in cancer research, specifically in the study of brain cancer.

The NCRI, of which Brain Tumour Research is a proud partner, has also just published a report outlining key points from the Beyond the Horizon: ‘Innovative cancer drug discovery’ event. The aim of the report is to galvanise players across the cancer research landscape to reimagine current drug discovery efforts. Beyond the Horizon is an NCRI led initiative to define the current and future challenges and the transformational changes needed across cancer research.

Finally as we come to the end of the fifteenth annual International Brain Tumour Awareness Week we would like to salute the work of Kathy Oliver and her team at The IBTA – this is a worldwide research update and it is fitting for us to note the work of the International Brain Tumour alliance and we have been thrilled and inspired to have been attendees at all of their Brain Tumour Patient Advocacy summits.

“Brilliance!” - the IBTA’s first virtual art exhibition of creative works from the global brain tumour community launched this week too!

Visit the IBTA’s “Brilliance!” catalogue here

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