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Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer

Finding a cure for acoustic neuroma

by Dr Karen Noble

Our Director of Research, Policy and Innovation, Dr Karen Noble, marks Acoustic Neuroma Awareness Day, sharing more about this tumour type and what Brain Tumour Research is doing to find a cure. 

Acoustic neuroma is a sub-type of schwannoma that occurs in the inner ear, wrapping around the vestibular (auditory) nerve, situated in the inner ear. This type of tumour is also called vestibular schwannoma.

The vestibular nerve is responsible for carrying messages from your inner ear to your brain. It is therefore related to your ability to hear, as well as contributing to your sense of balance and perception of body position.

Acoustic neuroma is a type of non-cancerous (benign) brain tumour that usually grows slowly over many years and does not spread to other parts of the body. 

Symptoms can include hearing loss, usually on one side; tinnitus; facial muscle weakness, numbness or pain; persistent headaches; dizziness; vertigo; weakness in the arms or legs; balance issues; and poor limb co-ordination (ataxia) on one side of the body.

Most acoustic neuroma occur spontaneously and the reason why is unclear. One reason they can occur is as part of genetic diseases called neurofibromatosis 2 and schwannomatosis. 

Treatment varies depending on the tumour. Some are so slow-growing that they are monitored with regular scans and may not need treatment.

Many acoustic neuromas can be completely removed by surgery. If complete resection is not possible and the tumour grows back, further surgery may be offered to reduce tumour size again. Stereotactic radiosurgery may be used to treat small tumours, or for any tumour remaining after surgery.

What are we doing to find a cure for acoustic neuroma?

Led by Professor Oliver Hanemann, our Centre of Excellence at the University of Plymouth is one of Europe’s leading research institutions for low-grade brain tumours and has a strong focus on schwannoma, acoustic neuroma and neurofibromatosis 2. 

Funded by Brain Tumour Research, the Centre recently made a breakthrough which could see drugs developed to treat AIDS and HIV used to treat low-grade brain tumours, including acoustic neuroma. 

The team’s findings are significant because drug repurposing is a valuable way to accelerate the testing of new approaches into clinical trials, meaning, if successful, they could reach patients sooner. For brain tumour patients, this is particularly critical as many of them do not have the luxury of time.

Research into brain tumours has historically been underfunded, but low-grade tumours are the underfunded of the underfunded. A sustainable supply of funds is vital to support Prof Hanemann and his team conducting pioneering research to improve treatments and outcomes for all those affected by these devastating low-grade tumour types, including acoustic neuroma.

You can help us support and sustain that vital research, and the work being undertaken across all of our Research Centres to get closer to our vision of finding a cure for all types of brain tumours, by  donating what you can today or setting up a regular donation  here

Image: Schwannoma cell in culture picture from Brain Tumour Centre in Plymouth


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