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Investigating DNA repair on a cell-by-cell basis in glioblastoma 

Fast facts

  • Official title: Deconstructing DNA repair within the glioma-brain interface at single-cell resolution
  • Lead researcher: Dr. Ola Rominiyi
  • Where: University of Sheffield, UK   
  • When: January 2023 – December 2025
  • Cost: £224,474 over three years
  • Research type: DNA repair, Genomics, High Grade Glioma, Inhibitors, Neuro-surgery, Stem cells
  • Award type: Future Leaders

Gliomas are a particularly aggressive and difficult to treat group of brain tumours. The more dangerous gliomas are high-grade gliomas. These tumours are diagnosed in over 2,000 patients in the UK every year and survival rates have improved very little over the last few decades. High-grade gliomas can never be completely removed during surgery, as some of the cancerous cells spread deep into surrounding brain tissue. These residual tumour cells respond differently to therapeutics. These differences appear related to the DNA repair ability hardwired into every cell. Therapeutics fail in their attempt to kill the cells by damaging their DNA because residual tumour cells have a peculiar ability to repair their DNA. Researchers are investigating ways to deactivate key mechanisms used to repair DNA in cancer cells, which would eventually kill the cells for good. 

What is it?

Dr Rominiyi will lead an investigation on a cell-by-cell basis in ten-of-thousands of cells with the main goal of finding how different cells repair their DNA. He will use samples from carefully selected operations in which the surgeon removes tissue next to a brain tumour that has been invaded by cancerous cells, along with the tumour itself as one piece. In collaboration with local and international experts, state-of-the-art technologies will be used to find weaknesses in the DNA repair capabilities of cancerous cells and develop new treatment strategies using DNA repair inhibitor drugs. These drugs will be directly tested in residual cells (from the brain tumour) grown in the laboratory.

Why is it important?

Despite the best treatments available currently, high-grade gliomas always grow back after surgery. People diagnosed with a “grade 3” tumour might survive 2-3 years on average, whilst those with the most aggressive and common “grade 4” tumours may only survive 10-15 months. Dr Rominiyi’s research is expected to inform new clinical treatment strategies. Switching off the key mechanisms that cancerous cells use to repair their DNA after chemo- and radiotherapy could effectively extend the lifespan of patients. More targeted treatments could reduce the side effects we currently see with ordinary therapies. 

Who will it help?

This research has the potential to help people who are diagnosed with high-grade gliomas. High-grade gliomas are diagnosed in over 2,000 people in the UK every year, and survival rates have improved very little over the last few decades. Dr Rominiyi’s research will help in finding new treatment strategies for gliomas, offering new insights to help doctors set a treatment that is more effective than those used today, delaying a recurrence of the tumour, and improving prognoses. 

Our studies will help understand why glioma cells that invade into brain are so challenging to treat, and where we have been going wrong, to help accelerate a future where treatments can eradicate cancer cells in every part of the tumours and provide the long-term survival patients desperately need.

Dr. Rominiyi

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.

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Dr. Ola Rominiyi

Dr Rominiyi is a Lecturer in Neurosurgery and a Specialty Registrar in Neurosurgery at the University of Sheffield. He has already made significant contributions to brain tumour research by creating a large biobank containing multiple samples that are used by researchers and industry in the UK. He holds a highly competitive neurosurgical training number and has excelled in all aspects of clinical training to date. During his surgical training, Dr Rominiyi regularly saw the devastation brain tumours cause patients and families. As an Early Career Clinical Academic, he has demonstrated an exceptional career trajectory, securing significant research funding, publishing multiple peer-reviewed papers, and delivering national and international scientific presentations. His achievements underline his burgeoning potential to make substantial advances in cancer research. 

Our founders Neil and Angela Dickson speak to Dr Ola Rominiyi about his project and why it is so important.