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Who we fund

We are excited to be funding some of the leading brain tumour researchers in the UK. Find out more about them, their work and their motivation in our interviews below.

The field of brain tumour research is greatly varied, with over 130 different tumour types in existence, therefore we fund researchers who each have different expertise. Our researchers are investigating how changes to our genes are linked to tumour development, how our immune system can be primed to attack tumour cells and how drugs can be developed which target the tumour cells only, among many other areas of research.

Adult brain tumour researchers

Here are the researchers we are currently funding to investigate and further our understanding or find new treatments for adult brain tumours

Dr Adam Waldman

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Dr Adam Waldman

Predicting patient survival - a new method of MRI

Researchers at Imperial College London have developed a new MRI scanning technique that will accurately measure how a tumour is responding to therapy.

The team, led by Dr Adam Waldman, have developed a technique called Diffusion Weighted Imaging (DWI) which measures the properties of water in both the tumour and surrounding brain to detect changes in growth. These changes can be identified at an earlier stage using DWI in comparison with standard MRI.

This technique will now be trialled in newly diagnosed glioblastoma patients across five different brain tumour research centres to confirm whether DWI is a more reliable method than standard MRI.

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Prof. Susan Short

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Professor Susan Short

Cancer-killing viruses offer fresh hope in the fight against high grade gliomas

Professor Susan Short and her team are studying a non-toxic virus which only 'invades' and kills tumour cells. The viruses can also be primed with anti-cancer drugs to increase their destructive potential.

New methods to deliver drugs to the brain are urgently needed as many drugs are unable to reach the tumour site as they cannot pass through the protective barrier that separates the brain from the bloodstream. Current treatments also cause serious side effects as the do not target the tumour specifically and therefore damage healthy cells.

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Dr Thomas Millner

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Dr Thomas Millner

Understanding the events initiating glioblastoma

In order to treat glioblastomas, it is important to understand the characteristics and the events initiating this tumour type. As part of his clinical research training fellowship, Dr Thomas Millner is researching epigenetic modifications, an important aspect of glioblastoma development.

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Dr Sebastian Serres

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Dr Sebastian Serres

Understanding the role of transcription factors in tumour development

Glioblastomas are highly aggressive tumours for which effective treatment options are lacking, highlighting the urgent need for new therapeutic strategies. Like many other cancers, brain tumours are heavily influenced by their surroundings.

It is therefore important to understand how the tumour cells interact with the healthy brain and respond under certain conditions such as hypoxia (a lack of oxygen in the tissue), as this is likely to reveal new ways to target them.

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Dr Lucy Stead

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Dr Lucy Stead

Using nanobiopsy to characterise tumour cells

Glioblastomas are the most common, and one of the most aggressive types of brain cancer found in adults.

Standard treatments always result in tumour regrowth. What we don't know is whether glioblastoma cells are naturally resistant to treatment or whether treatments cause changes within the cells that make them resistant.

This project is using advanced technology called nanobiopsy to extract tiny samples from living cells without killing them.

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Dr Vincenzo D'Angiolella

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Dr Vincenzo D'Angiolella

Targeting glioblastoma cell metabolism

Despite aggressive treatment for glioblastomas, tumour recurrence is inevitable, highlighting the urgent need to understand why these treatments are failing.

This research project will help improve our knowledge the differences between healthy brain tissue and tumour cells. It will help us better understand the underlying mechanisms driving aggressive glioblastomas, and identify ways in which we can disrupt these interactions with drugs to slow tumour growth.

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Dr Gregor Hutter

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Dr Gregor Hutter

Manipulating the tumour's environment

The environment in which a tumour exists contains several different types of cells. Some of these cell types support tumour growth and promote its spread to other parts of the brain. Microglia are one of the cell types that play an important role in supporting tumour growth. However, researchers have shown that it's possible to manipulate and reprogramme microglia to have an anti-cancer function.

The aim of Dr Hutter's research is to use a combination of drugs to reprogramme microglia to kill glioblastoma cells.

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Prof. Colin Watts

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Professor Colin Watts

Amplifying drug delivery across the blood brain barrier using injectable gels

Professor Colin Watts and his team at the University of Cambridge are testing drug-containing gels as a new delivery method for the treatment of high grade brain tumours.

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The Tessa Jowell BRAIN-MATRIX

A first-of-its-kind clinical trial enabling doctors to treat brain tumours with drugs that are more targeted than ever before.

Although the trial is being led from the UK, we expect it to deliver global impact for brain cancer patients.

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Dr Paulo Ribeiro

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Dr Paulo Ribeiro

Studying the interaction between genetically different cells in glioblastoma tumour

Dr Ribeiro and his team aim to develop a genetic tool called OncoChrome to study tumour heterogeneity in fruit flies. This tool will be used to tag genes with a fluorescent marker, allowing the team to track cells with the fluorescent genes to look at how tumour heterogeneity influences tumour progression.


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Dr Khuloud Al-Jamal

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Dr Khuloud Al-Jamal

Delivering gene-editing technology to tumour cells across the blood brain barrier

CRISPR/Cas9 is a gene-editing tool that has been hailed as a revolution in genetic engineering. This powerful technology can be used to seek out specific pieces of tumour-causing DNA and cut them to cause tumour cell death. However, one of the major challenges in delivering this tool is overcoming the blood brain barrier (BBB).

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Prof. Thomas Wurdinger

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Professor Thomas Wurdinger

Investigating combined drug treatments

This collaboration, being led from Amsterdam, will also involve UK researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Sanger Institute and IOTA Pharmaceuticals. They will be looking at existing drugs in different combinations. They have sophisticated software that will analyse already-licensed drugs to see which ones could work together to treat Glioblastoma (GBM).

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Dr Steve Pollard

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Dr Steve Pollard

Linking glioblastomas to DNA-protein parcels

Dr Pollard and his group are exploiting the latest genome editing technologies that have opened up new opportunities for understanding the biology of glioblastomas (GBM).


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Dr Phedias Diamandis

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Dr Phedias Diamandis

Classifying brain tumours using artificial intelligence

Preliminary research has shown that there is a growing interest in using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve brain tumour diagnosis. However, studies so far have largely focused on relatively niche tasks using pre-defined samples, which limits its use.

To address this, the research team led by Dr Diamandis have developed a brain tumour classification tool by using an emerging form of AI known as convolutional neural networks (CNNs). The aim of this research project is to “train" the classification tool to differentiate the different types of brain tumours.

The classification tool will then allow researchers to predict tumour behaviour and response to treatment.

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Dr Alasdair Rooney

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Dr Alasdair Rooney

Reducing the effects of fatigue

In researching our quality of life publication, Losing Myself: The Reality of Life with a Brain Tumour, we found that fatigue was a factor in two out of every 3 people with a brain tumour, and that for 40% of people rated their fatigue as severe. The work by Dr Rooney and his colleagues will aim to address this through an intervention study.

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Dr Marion Smits

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Dr Marion Smits

Mapping biomarkers for low-grade tumours using a MRI

Current standard treatment for low-grade diffuse gliomas involves surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible followed by a “watch and wait” policy – only starting further treatment when symptoms worsen or if imaging tests show the tumour has grown.

It is vital that we develop more accurate ways of monitoring tumour growth in order to improve treatment plans, and ultimately improve outcomes for patients.

This project aims to use a new and non-invasive MRI technique called Chemical Exchange Saturation Transfer (CEST) to visualise and measure protein build-up in low-grade diffuse gliomas. By measuring and monitoring protein build-up, researchers hope to be able to detect tumour growth and progression sooner, and therefore create more effective treatment plans.

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Dr Paul Brennan

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Dr Paul Brennan

Uncovering tumour transition

Dr Brennan is looking at how and why some low grade gliomas change into high grade gliomas.

By undertaking tests on low grade cells, he hopes to define the biomarkers (indicators, such as genes, molecules or other biological substances found in blood or cells, which can be used to measure or diagnose a tumour) that are changing the cells.

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Prof. Linda Sharp

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Professor Linda Sharp

Developing a self-management program

Professor Sharp and her team will start by looking at the research that has been done into self-management programmes for other cancers, as well as those used currently by brain tumour survivors.

She will look for the aspects of these previous or existing programmes to determine which worked best.

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Paediatric brain tumour researchers

Here are the researchers we are currently funding to investigate and further our understanding or find new treatments for paediatric brain tumours

Dr Darren Hargrave

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Dr Darren Hargrave

Tumour-targeted drugs tested in children with high grade brain tumours

Dr Darren Hargrave, a paediatric neuro-oncologist at Great Ormond Street Hospital, is leading a new clinical trial testing three new drugs in 150 children affected by DIPG. This trial will investigate whether each of these new drugs are effective when combined with radiotherapy, whether they can treat the tumour and whether they are well tolerated by patients. The study will be carried out over five years and is being funded in partnership with Cancer Research UK.

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Dr Adrian Bracken

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Dr Adrian Bracken

Finding new methods to treat Diffuse Midline Glioma

Dr Adrian Bracken and his research team at Trinity College Dublin aim to develop new methods to treat diffuse midline glioma, formerly known as Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG).

Previous research has demonstrated that the regulation of chromatin is disrupted in various cancers. Chromatin regulation refers to the process of DNA being wrapped around special proteins called histones. The research team will be focusing on finding new ways to block the activity of a particular protein involved in chromatin deregulation.

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Prof. Steve Clifford

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Prof. Steve Clifford

INSTINCT:on a mission to beat childhood brain tumours

Our INSTINCT programme brings together experts from Newcastle University, the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) and the UCL Institute for Child Health in London to research high-risk childhood brain tumours, including DIPG.

The research programme on DIPG is being led by Dr Chris Jones at the Institute of Cancer Research. Dr Jones has extensive experience in understanding the genetic basis of these tumours and what is driving tumour growth and then developing new drugs that target the genes involved. 

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Dr David Michod

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Dr David Michod

DAXX - a new target for brain tumour drugs

Researchers led by Dr David Michod at UCL's Institute of Child Health are testing to see if a protein involved in controlling the activity of genes in childhood glioblastoma could be a potential drug target for new treatments.

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Prof. Colin Kennedy

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Prof. Colin Kennedy

The PROMOTE Study

The project is named The PROMOTE Study - Patient Reported Outcome Measures Online To Enhance Communication and Quality of Life after childhood brain tumour.

The PROMOTE team are developing an online programme called KLIK which will be used by children and their families to keep track of any issues they have between consultations.

This research will propel our ability to understand, and potentially prevent, the harsh side effects of brain tumour treatment in children to help accelerate a change for those affected.

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Prof. Terrance Johns

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Prof. Terrance Johns

Preventing resistance to targeted therapies

Despite aggressive treatment with surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, patients with HGGs have an extremely poor prognosis.

A number of targeted therapies have also been tested but have failed to improve outcomes for these patients, highlighting the urgent need to better understand the biology of these tumours and why treatments fail.

This research aims to identify new drug combinations that are more effective and may improve survival for patients with HGGs. And by using treatments that are already approved and used in clinical practice, this process will be dramatically sped up.

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Dr David Jones

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Dr David Jones

The Everest Centre

The Everest Centre is being financed by The Brain Tumour Charity with money raised by the family and friends of Toby Ritchie, who was diagnosed with a low grade brain tumour at the age of five. 

The centre will fund several, vital research projects that will help us understand more about low grade paediatric brain tumours and trial new treatments.

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Prof. Denise Sheer & Prof. JP Martinez-Barbera

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Prof. Denise Sheer & Prof. JP Martinez-Barbera

SIGNAL

The team are working to create pre-clinical models for childhood low grade brain tumours (glioma).

Pre-clinical models are used by scientists to test new treatments in the lab before they are then used in humans, as part of a clinical trial.

Once we know the models work correctly, we can understand how the tumour can be treated and defeated. Low grade gliomas currently account for half of children with brain tumours, so this will be a significant advance.

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Dr Alex Bullock

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Dr Alex Bullock

Targeting ALK2 in diffuse midline gliomas

Dr Alex Bullock and his team at the Structural Genomic Consortium (SGC) at University of Oxford are focusing on the biology and proteins involved in the development of brain tumours, including diffuse midline gliomas (formerly known as DIPG).

Currently there’s a lack of treatment options for diffuse midline gliomas and prognosis for those diagnosed is poor. This research is making headway to change this.

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