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Tracking and Targeting Glioblastoma

Fast facts

  • 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: July 2019 – June 2021
  • Cost: £120,000 
  • Research type: Academic, Lab-based, Glioblastoma (High grade), Adult
  • Grant Round: Expanding theories

What is it?

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:

  1. track ecDNA as they migrate from cell-to-cell
  2. understand key features of ecDNA that could help them target it.

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.

Why is it important?

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.

Who will it help?

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.


  • The research team will examine the migration of ecDNA in glioblastoma cells.
  • The team will test a panel of drugs and determine how well they work to stop the movement of ecDNA between cells.
  • The most effective drugs will then be tested in pre-clinical models.

If you have any questions about this, or any of our other research projects, please contact us on research@thebraintumourcharity.org

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.

Across the UK, over 100,000 families are facing the overwhelming diagnosis of a brain tumour and it is only through the generosity of people like you can we continue to help them.

But, by setting up a regular gift – as little as £2 per month – you can ensure that families no longer face this destructive disease.

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Professor Verhaak is an Associate Director of Computational Biology.