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Medulloblastoma research

Medulloblastoma is the most common high-grade brain tumour in children. Based on clinical and biological characteristics medulloblastomas are divided into four sub-types: WNT, SHH, Group 3 and Group 4.

The four sub-types are linked to very different outcomes and need different levels of treatment. The research we fund into medulloblastoma aims to understand more about the causes of the disease, as well as developing kinder and more effective treatments.

Current research projects

Here are the research projects we are currently funding that relate to understanding or treating medulloblastoma

Prof. Steve Clifford

PNET5 trial: transforming treatments for childhood brain tumours

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Professor Steve Clifford

PNET5 trial: transforming treatments for childhood brain tumours

Medulloblastomas are the most common high grade brain tumours in children. The standard treatment for this tumour type is removing the tumour with surgery, followed with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

However, these treatments are quite aggressive and cause long-term, life-altering disabilities. The PNET5 clinical trial aims to improve the quality of survival of these children by providing kinder and tailored treatments.

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Dr Paul Northcott

Medulloblastoma Epigenome Regulation in Treatment (MERIT)

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Dr Paul Northcott

Medulloblastoma Epigenome Regulation in Treatment (MERIT)

Previous research has shown that epigenetic changes contribute to treatment resistance in medulloblastomas. Epigenetic changes refer to changes in the structure of DNA that alter the way DNA is 'read' by the cell. The aim of this research programme, led by Dr Paul Northcott, is to identify the epigenetic changes occurring in Group 3 medulloblastomas in response to treatment.

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Dr Laure Bihannic

Understanding the origins of medulloblastoma

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Dr Laure Bihannic

Understanding the origins of medulloblastoma

To create effective preclinical tumour models, it is imperative to know the cells from which the tumours originate. While it is known which cells WNT and SHH medulloblastomas arise from, the cellular origins of Groups 3 and 4 remain unknown. The aim of this research project, led by Dr Laure Bihannic, is to understand which cells give rise to Groups 3 and 4 medulloblastomas and use this knowledge to create accurate preclinical models for these subgroups.

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Dr Paul Northcott

Understanding the significance of medulloblastoma subtypes

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Dr Paul Northcott

Understanding the significance of medulloblastoma subtypes

Medulloblastomas are divided into the following sub-groups based on different clinical and biological characteristics: WNT, SHH, Group 3 and Group 4. 

However, there are several clinical trials testing different treatment regimens for children with medulloblastomas that are either concluding or have recently concluded that were launched prior to the consensus of the above sub-groups. The outcomes of these trials cannot be interpreted without proper molecular annotations. 

The aim of Dr Northcott and his team is to assign molecular subgroups to all patients who took part in two clinical trials conducted by the Children's Oncology Group. This will allow the researchers to interpret treatment-related outcomes for each sub-group.

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Prof. Louis Chesler

New drug development for medulloblastoma

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Professor Louis Chesler

New drug development for medulloblastoma

Professor Chesler is working with a team from Germany and the USA to study Group 3 medulloblastoma. The team will be analysing the genome in medulloblastoma tumour cells while also working on new ways to test drugs for this tumour type.

If successful, the research could, for the first time, reveal how these tumours are wired. This could mean that new drugs to treat this tumour type are delivered to the clinic within five years.

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Prof. Colin Kennedy

Quality of survival in a Europe-wide clinical trial

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Professor Colin Kennedy

Quality of survival in a Europe-wide clinical trial

This funding supports the quality of survival aspects of the European clinical trial entitled SIOP-PNET5-MB. This trial is for children with medulloblastoma tumours that have been defined in the clinic as "standard risk". The purpose of the trial is to assess whether treatment can be reduced so that these children experience less long term side effects, but still benefit from the anti-tumour activity of the protocol.

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Prof. Chris Clark

Taking a closer look at brain injury

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Professor Chris Clark

Taking a closer look at brain injury

Treatment for children with medulloblastoma, an aggressive type of brain tumour, is frequently accompanied by damage to the brain with long-term implications such as memory loss.

His research focus is on the development and application of imaging for the understanding of neurological disability. The development of these methods will lead to better neurosurgical planning in both children and adults.

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Conor Mallucci

Solving the mystery behind Cerebellar Mutism Syndrome

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Conor Mallucci

Solving the mystery behind Cerebellar Mutism Syndrome

Mr Mallucci will be carrying out a multi-centre study to investigate Cerebellar Mutism Syndrome (CMS), a.k.a. Posterior Fossa Syndrome, a serious and poorly understood late effect resulting from surgical complication. It is seen in up to 25% of children after removing tumours from the very back of the skull, known as the cerebellum.

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Current child brain tumour research projects

Here are some other research projects we are currently funding that relate to understanding or treating childhood brain tumours, including medulloblastoma.

Dr Jan Schuemann

Extreme dose rate proton therapy

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Dr Jan Schuemann

Extreme dose rate proton therapy

Previous studies have shown that delivering radiotherapy extremely rapidly can dramatically reduce side-effects. Radiation therapy that delivers the same dose of radiation in a much shorter period of time is called extreme dose radiation (EDR). EDR therapy has not been tested using proton beams, and that’s where this innovative research project comes in.

The research team, led by Dr Schuemann, will use pre-clinical models to test EDR proton therapy with the aim of establishing a treatment regimen that’s effective and well-tolerated by people. They’ll compare EDR to conventional radiation delivery and look for any differences in side-effects, specifically looking into the effects on cognition and motor control.

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Prof. Colin Kennedy

The PROMOTE Study

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Professor Colin Kennedy

The PROMOTE Study

The project is named The PROMOTE Study - Patient Reported Outcome Measures Online To Enhance Communication and Quality of Life after childhood brain tumour.

The PROMOTE team are developing an online programme called KLIK which will be used by children and their families to keep track of any issues they have between consultations.

This research will propel our ability to understand, and potentially prevent, the harsh side effects of brain tumour treatment in children to help accelerate a change for those affected.

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Prof. Colin Watts

Tessa Jowell BRAIN MATRIX

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Professor Colin Watts

Tessa Jowell BRAIN MATRIX

The Tessa Jowell BRAIN-MATRIX is a first-of-its-kind clinical trial that will enable doctors to treat brain tumours with drugs that are more targeted than ever before. We are excited to be investing £2.8 million to set the trial up, and to drive it into the future.

Although the trial is being led from the UK, we expect it to deliver global impact for brain cancer patients.

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Prof. Steve Clifford

INSTINCT

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Professor Steve Clifford

INSTINCT

Our INSTINCT programme brings together experts from Newcastle University, the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the UCL Institute for Child Health in London to research high-risk childhood brain tumours, including DIPG.

The research programme on DIPG is being led by Dr Chris Jones at the Institute of Cancer Research. Dr Jones has extensive experience in understanding the genetic basis of these tumours and what is driving tumour growth and then developing new drugs that target the genes involved. 

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Dr Lee Wong

Investigating tumour initiating events

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Dr Lee Wong

Investigating tumour initiating events

Previous research has demonstrated that chromatin regulation is often disrupted in many cancers. Mutations, or changes, in histone proteins leads to the initiation of many cancers, including gliomas.

The aim of the research, led by Dr Wong, is to understand the role of a specific histone protein, called H3.3, and how changes in this protein drive tumour growth.

Survival rates for individuals diagnosed with gliomas depend on a host of factors, but only 19% of adults diagnosed with a brain tumour survive for five years after their diagnosis. So it’s important that further research is done to inform our understanding of how and why these tumours start.

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