Announcing our co-funding grants with Worldwide Cancer Research

Tuesday 9 January 2018


Scotland-based charity, Worldwide Cancer Research, has formed a unique partnership with us to fund two outstanding scientists' work on brain cancer

Both charities have committed an equal share of nearly £340,000 to fund cancer researchers in Ireland and Australia.

A total of £119,000 has been awarded to Dr Lee Wong at Monash University in Australia to search for weaknesses in brain tumours so that new treatments can be developed.

A further £218,000 has been awarded to Professor Adrian Bracken at Trinity College Dublin to study a rare but highly aggressive childhood brain cancer, DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma).

Research into rare cancers is far behind in comparison to other types of cancer, meaning that outcomes for patients with rare cancers are often much worse.

Jennifer Stewart from East Lothian, Scotland, whose eight year old son Luke was diagnosed with DIPG in January last year, welcomed the announcement of funding:

“Research and alternative options are essential. There has to be a much-needed cure for DIPG to stop our precious children being stolen from us.

“There has been no progress towards a cure for DIPG for more than 50 years. This has to change. No child should suffer like those who are diagnosed with DIPG."

Dr Helen Rippon, Chief Executive of Worldwide Cancer Research, said: “Worldwide Cancer Research funds research into any cancer, anywhere in the world.

“The fantastic partnership we have formed with The Brain Tumour Charity means we have been able to support two international research projects that are vital to advance treatments for brain cancer.

“This is the first time both charities have joined forces to help fund cancer research and the combined support means that research projects are able to be completed that might otherwise have been missed.

“I would like to give sincere thanks to The Brain Tumour Charity and to our generous supporters – without this dedication and support, the pioneering projects we fund simply would not happen."

The first co-funded grant

Understanding the Role of Histone Variants in Tumorigenesis

Dr Wong and her team have worked out that a tiny alteration to chromosome structure can be used to identify tumour cells from normal cells and now want to investigate exactly how these changes drive tumour growth in glioma – a type of brain tumour.

Prior research has demonstrated that chromatin regulation is often disrupted in many cancers. Chromatin regulation is referring to the way DNA is wrapped around special proteins called histones.

Mutations in histone proteins, specifically H3.3, initiate events in various cancers, including brain cancers (gliomas).

The aim of the researchers, led by Dr Lee Wong at Monash University, is to understand the role of histone protein H3.3 and understand the mechanism through which mutations in this protein drive the growth of tumours.

To accomplish this, the research team will use stem cells to determine the function of H3.3 and what happens to the stem cells, once the protein is mutated.

Ultimately, the results from this study will help identify the fundamental changes underlying brain tumours and provide a basis to develop effective and targeted therapies.

The second co-funded grant

Understanding the Role of PRC2 Deregulation in Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG): Novel Strategies to Inhibit EZH2 Function

Professor Adrian Bracken is interested in why some patients are resistant to a specific type of treatment and is studying the molecular features of these tumours to work out how to overcome resistance.

Previous research has found that regulation of chromatin, which is DNA wrapped around special proteins, is disrupted in various cancers. Researchers have found that blocking the activity of proteins associated with chromatin, such as a protein called EZH2, with drugs has been successful.

Recent pre-clinical research has demonstrated potential in treating DIPG with drugs blocking the activity of chromatin associated proteins.

However, researchers have also discovered mutations with EZH2 (the chromatin associated protein). These mutations are changes within the protein that lead to drug resistance, making the drugs blocking EZH2 activity ineffective. Thus, it is vital that further research is conducted on different methods to treat DIPG.

The aim of the research, led by Professor Bracken at Trinity College Dublin, is to find alternative methods to block the activity of EZH2 to treat DIPG. This research can lay the foundation for subsequent clinical trials to effectively treat DIPG.

Phil Hexley, our Head of Research said: “We have two clear goals: to double survival and half the harm of brain tumours.

“That's why we're delighted to announce our partnership with Worldwide Cancer Research – an organisation that shares our approach to global collaboration in order to accelerate progress.

“By co-funding these two new research projects together, we'll drive forward our understanding of brain tumours and identify potential targets for new treatments. We look forward to working closely with Worldwide Cancer Research over the coming years."