Official title: Extrachromosomal DNA maintenance mechanisms and targeting in glioblastoma
Lead researcher: Professor Roel Verhaak
Where: The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine, Connecticut, USA
When: Awarded in March 2019, not yet started
Cost: £120,000 over two years
Research type: Academic, Lab-based, Glioblastoma (High grade), Adult
Grant Round: Expanding Theories
Cells in our bodies, including cancer cells, store our genetic information in threadlike structures called chromosomes. These structures are made up of tightly wrapped, long strands of DNA.
However, cancer cells also contain additional genetic information that isn’t found in normal, healthy cells. Because this DNA isn’t in the usual chromosome format it’s called extrachromosomal DNA (ecDNA).
There’s lots of ecDNA in glioblastoma cells. Previous research found that ecDNA holds genes that drive tumour growth and may contribute to treatment resistance.
Professor Verhaak aims to understand how ecDNA is created and maintained in cancer cells, and will then go on to develop strategies to treat glioblastomas by targeting ecDNA.
To accomplish this, the team are going to create a tool that will help them:
Furthermore, the team are going to use a range of drugs to help “trap” the ecDNA and assess if this method could be used to treat glioblastomas.
Glioblastoma is the most common primary, high grade brain tumour occurring in adults. The survival rate for people diagnosed with a glioblastoma is extremely poor, with less than 5% of people surviving for five years or more after diagnosis.
In the last decade, there have been no new drugs approved for clinical use to treat glioblastoma (GBM), so there’s an urgent need for new approaches to treat this aggressive tumour.
With new approaches in mind, this research will be focussing on little-studied ecDNA and the way it could contribute to the growth and spread of GBM. This pioneering new approach hopes to understand and block the effect of ecDNA in GBMs.
This research aims to help people diagnosed with glioblastoma, and their loved ones, by improving our understanding of what drives the growth of glioblastoma brain tumours and which new drugs can be used to treat them.
We’re looking forward to seeing the achievements of this group when the project starts.
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Professor Verhaak is an Associate Director of Computational Biology.