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

REF, Epilepsy and Dr Khalid Shah

This week Brain Tumour Research is congratulating its Centres of Excellence on great performances in the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF).

The results of the UK-wide assessment of university research were published last week. This is an important review as the results of the REF will be used to guide distribution of research funding across the UK, the value of which will stand at around £2 billion from 2022-23.

In this national audit of research, all staff with a “significant responsibility” for research were entered for assessment.

Imperial College London, the host university for one of our Centres of Excellence, led by Kevin O’Neill and Dr Nel Syed (pictured left, with our Director of Research, Policy and Innovation, Dr Karen Noble), was ranked at the top amongst universities in the UK. The Department of Brain Sciences, in which our Centre is based, also scored top, when compared to other units researching Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience.

Good news from Queen Mary University of London too, where our Centre, headed by Professor Silvia Marino, is located. In clinical medicine, 90% of the research was rated as world-leading or internationally excellent, and in the top ten for research power.

The University of Plymouth, home to our Centre directed by Professor Oliver Hanemann, also had cause to celebrate with 78% of their submission assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent.

Well done to our Centres and the researchers funded by Brain Tumour Research. We are proud of you and the game-changing research that you are undertaking. It is great to see your achievements recognised nationally.

During National Epilepsy Week, our Director of Research, Policy and Innovation Dr Karen Noble highlights the connection between brain tumours and epilepsy.

In a new study, scientists have devised a novel therapeutic strategy for treating glioblastoma post-surgery by using stem cells taken from healthy donors engineered to attack glioblastoma-specific tumour cells. 'This is the first study to our knowledge that identifies target receptors on tumour cells prior to initiating therapy, and using biodegradable, gel-encapsulated, "off-the-shelf" engineered stem cell-based therapy after glioblastoma tumour surgery,' said Dr Khalid Shah, the vice chair of research in the Department of Neurosurgery at the Brigham and faculty member at Harvard Medical School where the scientists were working. Results are published in  Nature Communications.

Dr Shah is a member of the  Brain Tumour Research Scientific and Medical Advisory Board (SMAB) which provide provides independent, objective reviews of our research programme and strategy.

Another paper published in  Nature Communications reports on a promising way to make brain cancer cells more susceptible to chemotherapy. The only chemotherapy treatment available for glioblastomas is Temozolomide, but it does not kill cancer stem cells. By the time the stem cells have developed into mature cancer cells, they replicate very quickly, and drugs have a limited effect. However, the researchers reporting in this paper have found a way to trigger glioblastoma stem cells to mature into cancer cells, which can be killed through drugs such as Temozolomide. This approach would cause fewer side effects in patients and has been proven to be effective in treating other cancers such as leukaemia.

There won’t be a research news update next Friday. Updates will return on Friday 10th June.

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