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Research News

National brain tumour research funding needs to increase to £30-35 million a year

Tessa Jowell centres, imaging improvements and MC Hammer

The first thing to note in this week’s update is that at this week’s meeting of the  All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission announced the recognition of nine NHS hospital brain tumour centres as the first Tessa Jowell Centres of Excellence for patient care. We are very pleased to welcome this important initiative which perfectly complements the work that we are doing to fund and campaign for increased investment in basic scientific research which is so vital if we are to improve outcomes for patients and, ultimately, find a cure for brain tumours.

A new study suggests a type of ultrasound scan can detect cancer tissue left behind after a brain tumour is removed more sensitively than surgeons, and could improve the outcome from operations. The new ultrasound technique, called shear wave elastography, could be used during brain surgery to detect residual cancerous tissue, allowing surgeons to remove as much as possible.

This study complements research being carried out at our Research Centre at Imperial College, who have recently launched a new trial investigating a range of non-invasive optical methods during neurosurgery, specifically during brain tumour debulking / resection.

On a similar theme, this item is both a news clip and a straightforward explanation of the use of surgically targeted radiation therapy to improve post-brain tumour surgery results cutting down on post-operative clinical visits and also delivering less damage to healthy tissue.

An exciting development next as a study has found that child brain tumours can be classified by Advanced Imaging and Artificial Intelligence (AI) meaning that the tumour can be characterised and treated more efficiently. Historically it has been hard to classify a brain tumour's type, without the use of a biopsy, however, diffusion weighted imaging, an advanced imaging technique, when combined with machine learning, can, according to this study, help.

Our Centres have also made substantial progress in classifying different tumour types using molecular classification.

From the Washington Post comes this piece with the emotive title “My baby daughter died of brain cancer. Here’s what we can do to save other kids.” I urge you to read it.

In the update two weeks ago, we reported on how a new Zebrafish model is helping scientists to advance glioblastoma multiforme research

In an unlikely sounding, and admittedly slightly oblique development, a neuroscientist has studied what happens to a zebrafish’s brain when it hears MC Hammer’s timeless 1990 hip-hop track, ‘U Can’t Touch This’. The research involves gently securing baby zebrafish inside a chamber and then playing them sounds while scanning their brains with a laser and looking at what happens through a microscope. Evidently “when you look at the neurons that light up at each sound, they’re unique. The fish can tell the difference between complex and different sounds” and on hearing ‘U Can’t Touch This’ “you can see when the vocal goes ‘ohhh-oh’, specific neurons light up and you can see it pulses to the beat. It looks like neurons responding to different parts of the music.”

Don’t forget that we are now in #BrainTumourAwarenesssMonth – please do promote that wherever you can and mention Brain Tumour Research too!

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