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Glioblastoma research

A glioblastoma, also known as a GBM, is the fastest growing form of the glioma brain tumour and is extremely difficult to treat, with just 3.3% of patients surviving beyond two years.

A glioblastoma is a high grade (grade 4) glioma, meaning that it is highly aggressive and can spread to other areas of the brain. We are determined to understand how and why this tumour type forms and develop new, effective treatments.

Current Glioblastoma research projects

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

Professor Neil Carragher

Targeting, treating and defeating glioblastoma

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Professor Neil Carragher

Targeting, treating and defeating glioblastoma

Professor Carragher will adopt a systematic approach to find new drug targets and new drug combinations to treat glioblastomas. In addition to discovering new combinations of drugs, they’ll continue their work by testing drug combinations already discovered by their team.

This grant will allow researchers to suggest new combinations of therapies which have the greatest chance of being effective and well-tolerated in people. We hope that these new therapy combinations will signify a real step-change in the lives of people with a glioblastoma, improving quality of life and length of survival.

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Dr Steve Pollard

Linking glioblastomas to DNA-protein parcels

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Dr Steve Pollard

Linking glioblastomas to DNA-protein parcels

Dr Pollard and his group are exploiting the latest genome editing technologies that have opened up new opportunities for understanding the biology of glioblastomas (GBM).

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Dr Gregor Hutter

Manipulating the tumour's environment

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Dr Gregor Hutter

Manipulating the tumour's environment

The environment in which a tumour exists contains several different types of cells. Some of these cell types support tumour growth and promote its spread to other parts of the brain. Microglia are one of the cell types that play an important role in supporting tumour growth. However, researchers have shown that it's possible to manipulate and reprogramme microglia to have an anti-cancer function.

The aim of Dr Hutter's research is to use a combination of drugs to reprogramme microglia to kill glioblastoma cells.

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Prof. Colin Watts

Amplifying drug delivery across the blood brain barrier using injectable gels

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Professor Colin Watts

Amplifying drug delivery across the blood brain barrier using injectable gels

Professor Colin Watts and his team at the University of Cambridge are testing drug-containing gels as a new delivery method for the treatment of high grade brain tumours.

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Prof. Susan Short

Cancer-killing viruses offer fresh hope in the fight against high grade gliomas

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Professor Susan Short

Cancer-killing viruses offer fresh hope in the fight against high grade gliomas

Professor Susan Short and her team are studying a non-toxic virus which only 'invades' and kills tumour cells. The viruses can also be primed with anti-cancer drugs to increase their destructive potential.

New methods to deliver drugs to the brain are urgently needed as many drugs are unable to reach the tumour site as they cannot pass through the protective barrier that separates the brain from the bloodstream. Current treatments also cause serious side effects as the do not target the tumour specifically and therefore damage healthy cells.

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Prof. Thomas Wurdinger

Investigating combined drug treatments

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Professor Thomas Wurdinger

Investigating combined drug treatments

This collaboration, being led from Amsterdam, will also involve UK researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Sanger Institute and IOTA Pharmaceuticals. They will be looking at existing drugs in different combinations. They have sophisticated software that will analyse already-licensed drugs to see which ones could work together to treat Glioblastoma (GBM).

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Dr Lucy Stead

Using nanobiopsy to characterise tumour cells

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Dr Lucy Stead

Using nanobiopsy to characterise tumour cells

Glioblastomas are the most common, and one of the most aggressive types of brain cancer found in adults.

Standard treatments always result in tumour regrowth. What we don't know is whether glioblastoma cells are naturally resistant to treatment or whether treatments cause changes within the cells that make them resistant.

This project is using advanced technology called nanobiopsy to extract tiny samples from living cells without killing them.

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Dr Adam Waldman

Predicting patient survival - a new method of MRI

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Dr Adam Waldman

Predicting patient survival - a new method of MRI

Researchers at Imperial College London have developed a new MRI scanning technique that will accurately measure how a tumour is responding to therapy.

The team, led by Dr Adam Waldman, have developed a technique called Diffusion Weighted Imaging (DWI) which measures the properties of water in both the tumour and surrounding brain to detect changes in growth. These changes can be identified at an earlier stage using DWI in comparison with standard MRI.

This technique will now be trialled in newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients across five different brain tumour research centres to confirm whether DWI is a more reliable method than standard MRI.

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Professor Anthony Chalmers

Repurposing drugs to treat glioblastoma

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Professor Anthony Chalmers

Repurposing drugs to treat glioblastoma

Previous research has demonstrated that olaparib, a drug currently used to treat ovarian cancer, has also been effective in controlling glioblastoma brain tumour growth. Olaparib works by blocking the DNA damage repair mechanism in our bodies, preventing the tumour’s ability to heal itself after it’s been damaged by treatment.

With our funding, the research team, led by Professor Chalmers, will carry out a phase 1 clinical trial to test olaparib in combination with the current standard of treatment, which currently consists of surgery, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy. The aim of a phase 1 clinical trial is to figure out the dose of the drug and any side-effects to ensure the drug is well-tolerated.

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Dr Thomas Millner

Understanding the events initiating glioblastoma

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Dr Thomas Millner

Understanding the events initiating glioblastoma

In order to treat glioblastomas, it is important to understand the characteristics and the events initiating this tumour type. As part of his clinical research training fellowship, Dr Thomas Millner is researching epigenetic modifications, an important aspect of glioblastoma development.

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Dr Sebastien Serres

Does STAT3 help form a barrier around GBM?

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Dr Sebastien Serres

Does STAT3 help form a barrier around GBM?

Glioblastomas are highly aggressive tumours for which effective treatment options are lacking, highlighting the urgent need for new therapeutic strategies. Like many other cancers, brain tumours are heavily influenced by their surroundings.

It is therefore important to understand how the tumour cells interact with the healthy brain and respond under certain conditions such as hypoxia (a lack of oxygen in the tissue), as this is likely to reveal new ways to target them.

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Dr Vincenzo D'Angiolella

Targeting glioblastoma cell metabolism

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Dr Vincenzo D'Angiolella

Targeting glioblastoma cell metabolism

Despite aggressive treatment for glioblastomas, tumour recurrence is inevitable, highlighting the urgent need to understand why these treatments are failing.

This research project will help improve our knowledge the differences between healthy brain tissue and tumour cells. It will help us better understand the underlying mechanisms driving aggressive glioblastomas, and identify ways in which we can disrupt these interactions with drugs to slow tumour growth.

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Professor. Roel Verhaak

Tracking and Targeting Glioblastoma

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Professor Roel Verhaak

Tracking and Targeting Glioblastoma

Professor Verhaak aims to understand how extra chromosomal DNA or ecDNA is created and maintained in cancer cells, and will then go on to develop strategies to treat glioblastomas by targeting ecDNA.

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Professor Simona Parinello

Mapping glioblastoma cells

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Professor Simona Parinello

Mapping glioblastoma cells

Professor Parrinello, and her colleagues at Imperial College London, aim to understand how glioblastomas spread into the brain and how they use small molecules as messengers to communicate with surrounding cells.

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Dr Stuart Smith

Targeting Glioblastoma drug resistance through RNA methylation

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Dr Stuart Smith

Targeting Glioblastoma drug resistance through RNA methylation

Researchers, led by Dr Stuart Smith in Nottingham, will investigate the levels of RNA methylation in GMB cells and compare them to levels in low grade tumours. They will then test the theory that RNA methylation is responsible for some GBM tumours becoming resistant to current treatments.

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Mr Ola Rominiyi

3D models to understand invading GBM cells

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Mr Ola Rominiyi

3D models to understand invading GBM cells

This innovative research project will develop a new 3D model of glioblastoma (GBM) for lab assessments. The researchers, based in Sheffield, will also use the model to prioritise some of the best potential drugs to enhance current therapies.

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Current high grade brain tumour research projects

Here are the research projects we are currently funding that relate to understanding or treating high grade brain tumours, including glioblastoma

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 study 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 study 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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Dr Phedias Diamandis

Classifying brain tumours using artificial intelligence

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Dr Phedias Diamandis

Classifying brain tumours using artificial intelligence

Preliminary research has shown that there is a growing interest in using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve brain tumour diagnosis. However, studies so far have largely focused on relatively niche tasks using pre-defined samples, which limits its use.

To address this, the research team led by Dr Diamandis have developed a brain tumour classification tool by using an emerging form of AI known as convolutional neural networks (CNNs). The aim of this research project is to “train" the classification tool to differentiate the different types of brain tumours.

The classification tool will then allow researchers to predict tumour behaviour and response to treatment.

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Dr Alasdair Rooney

Reducing the effects of fatigue

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Dr Alasdair Rooney

Reducing the effects of fatigue

In researching our quality of life publication, Losing Myself: The Reality of Life with a Brain Tumour, we found that fatigue was a factor in two out of every 3 people with a brain tumour, and that for 40% of people rated their fatigue as severe. The work by Dr Rooney and his colleagues will aim to address this through an intervention study.

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Dr Lee Wong

Investigating tumour initiating event

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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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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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