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Uncovering tumour transition

Fast facts

  • Official title: Defining the transcriptional and epigenetic rewiring that accompanies malignant transformation of low grade glioma
  • Lead researcher: Dr Paul Brennan
  • Where: University of Edinburgh
  • When: March 2018 – August 2019
  • Cost: £87,710
  • Research type: Adult, Low and High Grade, Academic
  • Grant round: New Ideas

What is it?

Dr Brennan and his team are going to use gene editing techniques to deliver specific mutations or alterations to low grade tumour cells. This will help them identify which mutations cause the transformation of these cells into a more high grade and aggressive state.

The research team will also assess if special proteins called transcription factors, which regulate the expression of genes, are driving the transformation of these tumours. Specifically, the team will study the transcription factors named SOX2 and FOXG1 and if they can be targeted with drugs.

Why is it needed?

Gliomas are the most common and aggressive type of adult brain tumour. Understanding the transformation of low grade tumours into their more aggressive, high grade counterparts has been difficult due to the limited access to, and growing of, these tumour cells in the lab.

A better understanding of what happens during this transition is vital to help us identify drugs and molecular markers that would enable us to detect and treat these tumours before they become aggressive.

Who will it help?

This research will help people with low and high grade gliomas by giving a better understanding of how and when these tumours turn aggressive.


The research team are about halfway through their research project and they’ve discovered some unexpected results. What they’ve found is that low grade tumour cells cannot be transformed into high grade tumour cells. Instead, the low grade cells influence the behaviour of other cells, called cancer stem-like cells. It is these cancer stem-like cells that are believed to transform into aggressive, high grade tumour cells. The research team is currently investigating the mechanism behind this process.

Research is just one other way your regular gift can make a difference

Research is the only way we will discover kinder, more effective treatments and, ultimately, stamp out brain tumours – for good! However, brain tumours are complex and research in to them takes a great deal of time and money.

Across the UK, over 100,000 families are facing the overwhelming diagnosis of a brain tumour and it is only through the generosity of people like you can we continue to help them.

But, by setting up a regular gift – as little as £2 per month – you can ensure that families no longer face this destructive disease.

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