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Research News

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

#GBMAwarenessWeek, losartan and OLIG2

Wednesday was GBM awareness day in the US and in the UK Brain Tumour Research have been holding our first #GBMAwarenessWeek to shine a spotlight on this type of tumour. Please click on the link to read the powerful stories that we have been sharing and the hope that lies in the research we are funding.

New research indicates that the blood pressure drug losartan may benefit patients with neurofibromatosis type 2 (NF2), NF2 is a hereditary condition associated with vestibular schwannomas, or noncancerous tumours along the nerves in the brain that are involved with hearing and balance. The research findings are especially important because vestibular schwannomas are currently treated with surgery and radiation therapy with their inherent risks and in the US where this research was carried out there are no FDA approved drugs to treat these tumours or their associated hearing loss. As the co-senior author of the report put it, “Developing effective therapeutics to preserve hearing function in patients with NF2 is an urgent unmet medical need. The greatest barrier to managing NF2-related auditory impairment is our incomplete understanding of how schwannomas cause hearing loss."

Preclinical stage biopharmaceutical company Curtana Pharmaceuticals has signed an agreement with Catalent to support tablet formulation and manufacturing of Curtana’s CT-179, a drug therapy for the treatment of glioblastoma, medulloblastoma, and other brain cancers. CT-179 is a highly potent and selective small molecule inhibitor. This is a drug that can enter cells easily because it has a low molecular weight, once inside the cells, it can affect other molecules, such as proteins, and may cause cancer cells to die. CT-179 is a small molecule inhibitor of OLIG2 which in turn is a transcription factor that is essential to normal early brain development but is not actively expressed in most normal adult brain cells or in normal tissues outside the brain. However, it is expressed in all diffuse gliomas and it has been shown that OLIG2 drives tumour initiation, tumour growth, invasion into healthy brain tissue, and resistance to chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Much immunotherapy language talks of hot and cold tumour sites and the need to switch back to hot, sites that cancer has turned cold. This hasn’t always proved successful in brain tumours and the lack of T cell infiltration has been thought of as a possible reason however this complex research quantified the T cells from tumours of patients with CNS malignancies and established that although immunologically “cold”, patients with CNS malignancies do have some basal T cell infiltration.  

EANO 2021 has opened its virtual meeting (25th – 26th September) registration page

Some promising news from Government this week as NHS England have announced a  new Innovative Medicines Fund to fast-track promising new drugs. An article in The Times on this matter said "The IMF will allow patients to have early access to the most promising treatments without the need for lengthy assessments." I canvassed the views, as I very frequently do, of the Chair of the Brain Tumour Research Scientific and Medical Advisory Board (SMAB) Emeritus Professor of Neurosurgery, Garth Cruickshank. Professor Cruickshank feels that this IMF initiative appears to be very good news for brain tumour patients. He said “for GBM patients this a real step forward as their life expectancy is so poor that they may not live long enough to be well enough to take such a new drug or to benefit from it. Importantly this initiative starts to unravel the conventional wisdom of having a long runway of testing before access to patients in a situation where such an approach has not borne much fruit in the last thirty years.”

Finally, in well-deserved recognition of her work to reduce the burden of brain cancer by identifying new risk factors and biomarkers, Kathreena Kurian has been awarded a Professorship. Professor Kurian works with a tight knit group of researchers at Southmead Hospital in Bristol and now as a Professor of Neuropathology, she intends to continue her work on brain tumours to inform prevention, personalised diagnosis and treatment.

Professor Kurian is also a very visible brain tumour campaigner. She spoke at the November 2020 meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on brain tumours (APPGBT) addressing the issue of funding and the structural problems that researchers face in accessing funding particularly in relation to the £40 million funding made available for allocation to brain tumour researchers through the NIHR in 2018. Currently less than 25% of this funding has been allocated. Huge congratulations to you Kathreena.

There won’t be a research news update next Friday but it will return on 6th August.

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