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Awarding the WINDOW Consortium £1.5 million for new research into glioblastoma

We have awarded the Dutch/British WINDOW Consortium a grant of £1.5 million (€1.75 million) for research into Glioblastoma

We have awarded the Dutch/British WINDOW Consortium a grant of £1.5 million (€1.75 million) for research into Glioblastoma. This unique collaboration will establish an international scientific network to generate more effective combination therapies against this deadly cancer, which has so far proved intransigent to any treatment.

This forms part of our overall announcement over £3.8 million to five new exciting research initiatives across the globe, thanks to your continued support and fundraising

As part of our work towards our twin goals, doubling survival and halving the harm that brain tumours have on quality of life, it’s imperative that we fund the best scientific and clinical research available.

We know that we will only achieve our vision, a world where brain tumours are defeated, by building strong networks and working collaboratively with global experts.

The WINDOW Consortium is part of this collaboration. The acronym WINDOW stands for ‘Window for Improvement for Newly Diagnosed patients by Overcoming disease Worsening’.

A targeted approach

WINDOW will test many drug combinations to target different cells within each individual patient’s tumour as well as looking at differences in tumour between patients.

By experimentally testing up to 100 combinations of drugs which already have clinical approval, WINDOW aims to accelerate the development of new treatments for glioblastoma.

Research leader Tom Würdinger(VU University Medical Centre, Cancer Centre, Amsterdam), said, “This grant from The Brain Tumour Charity enables our international team to mount a direct attack on this deadly disease”.

Glioblastoma is the most common and malignant form of brain cancer. Each year, around 3,200 patients are diagnosed with this disease in the UK and the Netherlands. Despite improving knowledge of its genetic causes, it remains stubbornly incurable, with current treatment schedules resulting in an average survival of 12 months from diagnosis.

Part of the poor prognosis is due to tumour heterogeneity: different parts of the tumour have different characteristics and will respond differently to therapy. As a result, a particular treatment may kill some of the tumour cells, while others cells continue to grow.

Business leader and philanthropist Jack Morris CBE, lost his daughter Emily in January this year, aged just 31. He’s been a vital supporter of The Charity. His tireless efforts in raising vital funds for us and his powerful advocacy voice enable our strategy to reach the wider audience.

Jack said, “Emily’s glioblastoma brain tumour diagnosis was a devastating time in our lives and we were introduced to a world that was completely alien to us. 

“Like many other parents in a similar situation, I spent a long time studying the subject that I needed to know about.

“That is why The Brain Tumour Charity’s research funding towards the WINDOW Consortium will be so important, in working to help all those going through similar devastating experiences.

“We know that brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and people under 40 in the UK and survival rates have not improved significantly over the last 40 years.

“This has to change and The Charity’s partnership with the WINDOW consortium is part of their strategy to make this happen.”

Pan-European collaboration

The researchers within the Consortium now aim to provide a solution to this problem by examining the links between intra-tumour molecular heterogeneity and combinatorial drug efficacy.

Glioblastoma cells from individual patients will be established in the laboratory of Colin Watts at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, part of Cambridge University Hospitals. These will then be passed to Bart Westerman and Tom Würdinger at the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam for experimental testing of up to 100 combinations of drugs to identify drug-combinations with broad clinical applicability, while maintaining specificity for cellular subtypes.

Drug combinations that are effective in cell culture will subsequently also be tested in animal models in Amsterdam. Data showing most promise for glioblastoma treatment will be assembled, annotated and distributed worldwide as a Glioblastoma Drug Bank by IOTA Pharmaceuticals, led by David Bailey and Fredrik Svensson in Cambridge.

In further studies, Emmanouil Metzakopian’s team from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute (UK) will use new CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing technology to identify new molecular targets, contributing to drug resistance in the same patient-derived tumour cells.

Hope for the future

The creation of such an integrated approach for effective treatment is expected to accelerate the development of new combination therapies and to seed development of new molecular approaches to treat glioblastoma.

Bart Westerman said, “Our strategy will combat this cancer from a cellular point of view. Novel drug therapies coming from specialties such as immuno-oncology will further complement the WINDOW approach”.

Find out more about the project at the WINDOW website, which will also be used as an open access portal for sharing data and methods.

Learn more about how we recently awarded £3.8 million for five global research initiatives