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

Breakthrough could see more tailored treatment for GBM

A discovery from our Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University of London could improve treatments for patients diagnosed with the deadliest type of brain tumours.

The research team has identified a proportion of glioblastoma (GBM) tumours which have unique features which could help inform tailored treatment choices for patients.

It is widely known that the diverse nature of GBM tumours, both between patients and within the tumour itself, means that the current one-size-fits-all approach to treatment is not sufficient, resulting in no improvement of patient outcomes in more than 20 years.

The work by Professor Silvia Marino and her team, published in eLife today, is an advancement in the understanding of how GBM tumours can differ between patients, the features that are specific to these tumours, and how these features may be exploited to ensure the most appropriate treatment is being offered to the patient.

The newly identified group of GBM tumours appear 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). They 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, 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 suffering with GBM which have these properties.”

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