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Exploring the immune cells in skull bone marrow to treat glioblastoma 

Fast facts

  • Official title: Skull Bone Marrow as a Local Source of Anti-Tumoural Immune Cells in Glioblastoma
  • Lead researcher: Dr Manish Aghi
  • Where: University of California, USA
  • When: November 2023 – October 2025
  • Cost: £150,000 over 2 years
  • Research type: Glioblastoma (High grade), Tumour biology, Academic
  • Grant round: Expanding Theories

Glioblastoma (GBM) is the most common aggressive brain tumour in adults. The prognosis for people diagnosed with a GBM is poor due to several factors including tumour recurrence, lack of effective treatments, poor responses to treatment, and suppression of the immune system. 

What is it?

Even with the current standard of care, which includes surgery, followed by radiotherapy and temozolomide chemotherapy (TMZ), less than 5% of people with a GBM survive for more than five years. One of the difficulties in treating GBM is that the body’s immune response is suppressed, which prevents it from attacking the tumour. More specifically, people diagnosed with a GBM have been found to lack “activated T-cells”, which are a type of immune cell essential for fighting cancer cells.  

Researcher Dr Manish Aghi and his team have discovered that the bone marrow in the skull can generate immune cells that travel directly to the GBM through specific blood vessels. These immune cells, which originate from the skull bone marrow, can produce three kinds of white blood cells – neutrophils, macrophages, and dendritic cells – within the GBM. These immune cells can be trained to recognise and kill the tumour cells. 

Dr Aghi plans to study immune cells in the bone marrow of the skull to compare their function with immune cells from other parts of the body. He also aims to understand how these skull marrow cells develop and how immune cells are kept in the skull marrow. He will then explore how treatments could be delivered through the skull to release these immune cells into the glioblastoma to fight against the tumour. 

Why is it important?

This research is ground-breaking because it uncovers a new group of immune cells in the skull marrow that are already primed to recognise and combat brain tumour cells. Additionally, this research could identify new methods of delivering drugs through the skull to encourage the movement of these immune cells into the glioblastoma, offering a unique approach to treatment. 

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Headshot of Dr Manish Aghi, who is exploring the immune cells in skull bone marrow to treat glioblastoma

Dr Manish Aghi

Dr Manish Aghi is a neurosurgeon specialising in brain tumors at UCSF Medical Center. He is principal investigator at the UCSF Brain Tumor Research Center and has over fifteen years of experience in glioblastoma research.