Recent developments of our Leeds-based research into brain tumour treatment

Dr Thomas Ward, part of the Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology research team, is funded by various cancer charities including The Brain Tumour Charity.

His team is seeking breakthroughs in understanding and developing treatments for the thousands of children and adults diagnosed with a brain tumour in the UK each year.

Dr Ward outlines some of the Institute's recent work and discoveries: “Currently patients with high grade, aggressive gliomas undergo surgery, to remove the majority of the tumour, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy to kill remaining tumour cells.

“These tumours are ultimately fatal because some cells survive the damage caused by radiotherapy and chemotherapy and re-populate the tumour.

Dr Ward worked for 11 years at the University of Oxford in a Cancer Research UK funded lab where he also studied for a PhD and subsequently worked for three years as a post-doctoral scientist for AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals. He then moved to the Short group at the University of Leeds in July 2016.

Dr Ward works under Professor Susan Short's team along with Dr Erica Wilson (pictured) at the Institute, tasked with research into brain tumours co-funded by The Charity.

His main research interest is cellular repair of DNA damage.

“One aspect of our work is to understand what helps these cells to survive and identify ways we can manipulate them to sensitise them to treatment,” he explains.

“We know, for example, that these cells display stem cell-like properties and have effective mechanisms for the repair of DNA damage associated with radiotherapy.

“By targeting pathways that maintain the stem cell-like nature of these cells or pathways responsible for the repair of DNA damage associated with therapy, we should be able to improve response to treatment, but this is a long, painstaking and expensive process.

We have recently identified a protein required for the repair of radiation-induced DNA damage that, when inhibited in these cells, leads to increased sensitivity to radiation, however much more research is needed if this is to be developed further into an effective therapy.

“The majority of our funding comes from cancer research charities such as The Brain Tumour Charity, and private donors to the University of Leeds Footsteps Fund, without whose support we couldn't continue our work.

“As an Institute, we are very pleased that Brain Tumour Awareness Month will highlight the importance of research into this devastating disease.”

Brain Tumour Awareness Month (BTAM) aims to raise awareness of brain tumours as well as vital funds for life-changing research.

By raising £150,000 during BTAM, we could fund 600 days of vital research into brain tumours such as that being undertaken by Professor Short's team.