Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer
Supporters learn about quest for GBM cure
On Wednesday this week, we welcomed a number of families to the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University of London (Queen Mary) which is leading the way in research into glioblastoma (GBM), the most common and aggressive form of brain tumour in adults. Most of these families know only too well the impact of a GBM diagnosis with its typical survival prognosis of between 12 and 18 months.
Hayley Lanciano and Neil Danziger were among those keen to find out whether there is cause for hope of a change in brain tumour treatment protocol. Hayley’s husband Neil was diagnosed with a GBM in April 2020 and died in November last year.
Attending with daughters Abbie and Emily, Hayley said: “Neil was given the standard NHS treatment of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy which frustratingly has barely changed for decades, and he did not respond to the treatment. It meant that I lost my husband and the father of our two teenage daughters.”
Hayley Lanciano with her daughters Abbie and Emily
Brain tumour patient Neil Danziger was diagnosed with a pilocytic astrocytoma with cells showing a mutated gene more common in aggressive high-grade diffuse midline gliomas or DIPG. He attended with his wife Victoria to place six tiles on the Wall of Hope after raising more than £16,000 through taking on a Walk of Hope last year.
In her presentation ahead of an opportunity to tour the labs, Lead Investigator Professor Silvia Marino spoke about the diverse nature of GBM tumours, both between patients and within the tumour itself. She said that the current ‘one-size-fits-all approach’ is totally inappropriate.
Prof Silvia Marino delivering her presentation
Her team has identified that a proportion of GBM tumours have unique features that could help inform tailored treatment choices for patients. They seem to share similar developmental characteristics to the unspecialised neural cells that will ultimately go on to become astrocytes (important non-neuronal cells that are responsible for a wide variety of complex and essential functions in the healthy central nervous system). Researchers found that these astrocytic-like tumours had an increased ability to invade surrounding tissue and contained different proportions of immune cells compared to other GBM tumours.
Identifying GBM tumours with these traits could have important implications for patients undergoing treatments which rely on the effectiveness of immune system mechanisms.
Dr James Boot in the lab
Dr James Boot, lead author of the study, said: “From a biological perspective this is a fascinating group of GBM tumours with very unique properties, which we hope could be exploited in the future to improve treatment for patients with GBM.”
Many of our supporters discover that loved ones diagnosed with GBMs are denied access to clinical trials in the UK because their tumour is deemed ‘too aggressive’. And faced with the end of what the NHS can offer in terms of treatment, some turn to crowdfunding to access costly private treatment, including immunotherapy, in Germany and the USA. These included the families of teenagers George Fox and Ethan Treharne who, despite seeking out alternative treatments, were at Queen Mary this week to place tiles on the Wall of Hope in memory of their sons, forever 13 and 18 respectively.
Louise and Issy Fox, Justin & Nikki Treharne & Jamie Fox
Following the loss of former chief petty officer in the Royal Navy, Simon Simpson to a GBM, his family raised more than £3,000 for Brain Tumour Research through taking part in our 10,000 Steps a Day in February challenge last year. This week Simon’s brother Stuart, his parents Lynne and Steve and his niece Lexie Telford were at Queen Mary to place a tile on the Wall of Hope, representing the day of research they have sponsored in Simon’s memory.
Lexie said: “I hope that our fundraising will help make a difference for everyone going forward who has a brain tumour. We need better treatments and more research into the disease. I don’t want other families in the future to be devastated by brain tumours like ours has been.
“It was emotional placing Simon’s tile on the Wall of Hope and heartening to hear from the scientists about the work being done in their quest to find a cure.”
Here at the charity we are dedicated to investing in long-term research with a model of building the ‘critical mass’ of expertise needed to accelerate the journey to a cure. This includes attracting talented researchers and nurturing and encouraging young researchers into the field of neuro-oncological research.
Indeed, two new PhD students have recently been welcomed to the pioneering team at Queen Mary where researchers are focused on finding a cure for glioblastoma (GBM).
For all those families with loved ones diagnosed with a GBM, that day can’t come soon enough.