Official title: Mapping the spatio-temporal heterogeneity of glioblastoma invasion
Lead researcher: Professor Simona Parinello
Where: University College London
Cost: £1,496,690 over five years
Research type: Academic, Lab-based, Glioblastoma, Adult
Grant round: Quest for Cures
Glioblastomas are diffuse in nature, meaning the tumour cells can spread through healthy parts of the brain. This is through a process called invasion, and makes it difficult to completely remove the tumour during surgery. Due to this, recurrence is a risk with glioblastomas as the tumour cells left behind can grow into a new tumour.
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. It is likely that glioblastoma use different molecules to communicate with different types of cells, which makes identifying the various molecules difficult.
The multi-disciplinary research team will investigate this communication by combining both biological and mathematical principles and using two new techniques called spatial transcriptomics and intravital photoacoustic imaging (PAI).
Spatial transcriptomics is a technique that allows researchers to characterise different cells while preserving information about the cells’ original location.
Characterisation of the cells means that we will know what changes are present in cells at each location. If the changes vary in different areas of the tumour it gives us insight into how to develop more specific treatments.
PAI is an advanced imaging technique that uses light and sound to create high resolution images. The research team will use PAI to create images of the brain that will help them visualise the invasion of glioblastoma cells deep inside the brain.
These two techniques will allow the researchers to map the invasion process and identify key molecules that help the tumour cells spread. This understanding will help researchers develop more effective therapies that will help block tumour cells from spreading and prevent recurrence.
Currently, not much is known about how a glioblastoma invades the surrounding brain because:
These obstacles are some of the reasons that, even with the current gold standard of care, a glioblastoma diagnosis comes with a poor prognosis and, even after treatment, tumour recurrence is very likely.
This research project aims to address all these obstacles and help us find drug targets to prevent tumour recurrence. Giving people with a glioblastoma much-needed hope for a future where brain tumours are defeated.
The researchers on this project have a broad range of interests and are coming together to fill a significant gap in our knowledge, namely ‘why do glioblastomas keep coming back?’
This work has the potential to benefit everyone who has had treatment for a glioblastoma and is living with the worry that it will return.
We’re looking forward to seeing the achievements of this group when the project starts.
If you have any questions about this, or any of our other research projects, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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