Groundbreaking clinical trial announced today in honour of Tessa Jowell

Friday 30 November 2018

Hundreds more brain tumour patients are set to be offered access to experimental treatments over the next five years thanks to the Tessa Jowell BRAIN-MATRIX

The former Cabinet Minister, who died in May a year after she was diagnosed with brain cancer, campaigned tirelessly during her final months to improve outcomes for others with the disease.

We are investing £2.8m into the Tessa Jowell BRAIN-MATRIX, a trial aimed at radically increasing opportunities for brain tumour patients to try non-standard treatments.

We announced plans last year to fund a widely-accessible glioma clinical trial and after a rigorous application process has selected Professor Colin Watts, Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Birmingham and Chair of the Birmingham Brain Cancer Program, to lead the initiative.

Professor Colin Watts said: “This investment by The Brain Tumour Charity will catalyse transformational change in the UK by creating the infrastructure to support innovative clinical trials that will improve clinical outcomes for patients of all ages with brain cancer."

The UK-wide trial will be open to patients of all ages who are diagnosed with glioma, the most common type of primary brain tumour in adults. These include glioblastoma - the highly-aggressive form of the disease which took Tessa Jowell's life.

The Tessa Jowell BRAIN-MATRIX will involve ten of the UK's major brain tumour referral centres, which between them treat a total of around 1,500 glioma patients every year.

The majority of these are expected to be eligible to join the trial if they choose to do so.

The only glioma patients excluded will be those whose tumour is categorized as grade one (the slowest-growing form of the disease) and those who are judged unsuitable for surgery.

The aim is that every patient who enrols in the trial should have his or her tumour analysed in molecular detail within 21 days of surgery.

Those found to have a genetic mutation known as BRAF V600E - around 6% of all glioma patients - will be eligible to enter 'Arm 1' of the trial.

They will be offered treatment with two drugs which have already proved effective against melanoma (skin cancer) with BRAF V600E mutation that has spread to other parts of the body.

Participants whose glioma does not have this particular mutation will join 'Arm 0' of the trial, also known as the 'platform' or 'backbone' arm.

These patients will be grouped together according to similarities in the specific molecular characteristics of their tumour, paving the way for each group to receive more targeted experimental therapies as the trial progresses.

Such therapies are expected to become increasingly available over the next five years as evidence grows that drugs which are already used successfully to treat one type of cancer can be trialled safely in patients with other forms of the disease.

All patients in the 'platform' arm of the trial will undergo surgery to remove as much of their tumour as possible.

They will be closely monitored to assess the way they respond to the surgery, whether their cancer recurs and the impact of any second operation on their health and survival.

The trial will also:

  • Collect and centralise banking of tumour and blood samples from glioma patients, in order to make these available more widely to researchers
  • Explore the feasibility of collecting and storing brain tumour and whole-brain samples after a patient's death, in partnership with the CRUK PEACE trial which is exploring this avenue for all types of solid tumour
  • Make available all of its data to BRIAN (The Brain Tumour Charity's Brain tumouR Information and Analysis Network)

Preparations for the Tessa Jowell BRAIN-MATRIX will begin formally in January 2019, with recruitment due to begin by January 2020 at the latest.

Jess Mills, Tessa Jowell's daughter and co-founder/CEO of ACT For Cancer, The Tessa Jowell Mission for Change, said: “It's a truly extraordinary thing that less than a year after the instigation of the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission, we are announcing the launch of the Tessa Jowell BRAIN-MATRIX – the first UK-wide trial designed specifically to improve access to adaptive treatments.

“This is the first huge step to bringing personalised, adaptive treatments to those diagnosed with brain cancer.

“We couldn't be prouder of the work that has been done by all involved, particularly Professor Colin Watts, who leads the trial at Birmingham University, and The Brain Tumour Charity, who have funded it.

"This is a huge moment for patients, clinicians and the research and trials community. Mum would be bursting with pride, as of course am I."

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