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Research News

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

A rising star, a podcast, tiny scissors and the role of iron - Research news update

Plenty going on this week and firstly, please join me in congratulating neuro-oncology clinical research practitioner, Lillie Pakzad-Shahabi, who has been awarded the North West London Clinical Research Awards (NWL CRN) 2020 Rising Star award. Lillie began as a multidisciplinary team (MDT) co-ordinator, before joining the John Fulcher neuro-oncology lab at our Imperial Research Centre. As a Brain Tumour Research funded Clinical Research Practitioner, she has focused on trial development, linking lab and clinical research and tissue-banking, as well as arranging Public Patient Involvement (PPI) sessions and lab tours. Well done Lillie, richly deserved and, as I’m sure all of you who have met Lillie on our Imperial lab tours will attest, she is a wonderful member of our team there.

If you’d like to keep abreast of the latest advances in Neuro-Oncology from the US why not sign up to this Podcast from the Society for Neuro-Oncology (SNO) - remember it was their virtual annual conference last week. Neuro-Oncology: The Podcast will keep you up to date about the latest advances presenting conversations with the authors of selected papers from Neuro-Oncology and its sister journals, Neuro-Oncology Practice and Neuro-Oncology Advances.

Malignant cells produce a lot of these two amino acids; serine and glycine. They could be described as being addicted to them, but could the antidepressant sertraline be used to expose this weakness? In this research, sertraline has been found to inhibit the production of serine and glycine causing a decrease in the growth of cancer cells. This research isn’t brain tumour specific but of interest none the less; it is really worth finding out more about how an antidepressant helps to inhibit growth of cancer cells:

A fascinating and beautifully illustrated piece here as Israeli scientists claim major cancer breakthrough using ‘tiny scissors. These are bold claims with cancer expert Professor Dan Peer saying “This technology can extend the life expectancy of cancer patients and we hope, one day, cure the disease.” Nobel Prize-winning technology is being used to destroy cancerous cells, leaving everything around them intact using a gene-editing system, which allows scientists to make precise alterations to DNA using “tiny scissors” to target and treat cancer. Wow!

Why do males and females have different GBM survival rates, and what is the role of iron in these sex difference outcomes? Researchers already know that with GBM females tend to have an improved survival rate of up to 10 months, and this new investigation will look at the genetic and metabolic differences in cellular processes associated with these different outcomes and the effect of iron metabolism in brain cells. The aim of this research? The development of new therapeutic approaches for GBM of course.

In pre-clinical studies, researchers have shown that a new therapy called POMHEX can destroy brain cancer cells.  POMHEX is a novel targeted therapy which blocks critical metabolic pathways in cancer cells with specific genetic defects. The researchers say the results provide proof-of-principle for a treatment strategy known as collateral lethality.

A comprehensive "proteogenomic" analysis of the proteins, genes, and RNA transcription involved in paediatric brain tumours has yielded a more complete understanding of these tumours and the results could deliver more accurate identification of different tumour types and methods for treating them. The current study is the first to reveal the power of proteins in paediatric brain tumours and could help to better determine which patient might benefit from a given therapy. Validation studies using targeted proteomics are providing a platform for clinical implementation of these findings.

As you will see when you click through to these updates they often contain quotes from the scientists conducting the research, and to close this week’s update two quotes from the scientists conducting this piece of paediatric research; "As this work moves further along toward clinical validation, I hope it brings comfort to patients and their families who have suffered from this terrible disease." All in all, this study is fantastic news for the children with brain tumours and their families”

I know we can’t move too quickly in our search for a cure, but hopefully, this will leave you with some degree of optimism for what brain tumour research will deliver for us.

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