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First stage of Addenbrooke’s trials of glioblastoma ‘pink drink’ research nears completion

Dr Colin Watts’ research, funded by us, uses fluorescent dye to reveal different parts of glioblastoma tumours during surgery.

Dr Colin Watts’ research uses fluorescent dye to reveal different parts of glioblastoma tumours during surgery.

“One of the difficulties in brain surgery is spotting the difference between cancer cells and healthy cells, which means some cancer cells can be missed,” he said.

“To try and prevent this we’re trialling a new technique which makes the cancerous cells glow pink, helping us to remove all the cancer. And if all the cancer is removed then it simply cannot return.”

The research at Addenbrooke’s hopes to understand the biological make-up of glioblastoma cells and how this influences the response to treatment.

Dr Watt’s team are investigating the theory that tumours are made up from distinct regions of cells, and that cells within each region have different properties which determine their response to treatment.

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“Colin Watts is actually coming into the final stages of a project, which is being funded by The Brain Tumour Charity…”

Erica Moyes, Research Engagement Manager at The Brain Tumour Charity

To investigate this, the team have developed a new imaging technique that uses fluorescent dyes to distinguish the regions within glioblastoma tumours. Samples of cells will be taken from each region during surgery and the genetic and biochemical profiles of the cells analysed.

“We need to fight back against this disease by raising money so that research can be translated into treatments for patients faster.

“Such research means we’re now able to look at new ways of identifying cancerous cells and that could make a huge difference in the future.” said Dr Watts.

Finding new means of treating glioblastomas is of great importance – this tumour type is among the most aggressive, with only 3.3% of patients surviving for more than two years. Glioblastomas are a highly malignant and invasive form of tumour that develops from astrocytes, star shaped cells which support and protect the nerve cells within the brain.

Read more about the latest research we’re funding