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Research developments in 2016: what the experts think

A major study has asked medical experts across the University of California, San Francisco, what they see as real developments in the coming year.

A major study has asked medical experts across the University of California, San Francisco, what they see as real developments in the coming year.

Alongside progress with precision medicine based on ‘big data’, and lab-grown organoids for human disease research, are two key areas that focus on brain tumour research.

Our hope at The Charity is that these critical areas of research continue to receive increased funding and motivation to speed up innovation and the discovery of new treatments:

Overcoming the blood-brain barrier
The first is the development of treatments that are able to cross the brain-blood barrier. This hindrance to treatment means that most chemotherapy drugs have to be administered orally or intravenously with an increase in severe side-effects.

Dr Krystof Bankiewicz, professor of neurosurgery at the University is trialling a ‘convection-enhanced drug delivery system’, that allows chemotherapy drugs to infused directly into the brain tumours of glioblastoma patients.

“For years, neurologists have wrestled with a quandary,” said Dr Baniewicz. “Do drugs for certain brain conditions fall short because they’re ineffective, or do they simply fail to cross the blood-brain barrier?”

2016 will see his team finalising phase 1 of this system and launching a parallel trial for paediatric brain tumours.

Bioinformatics for brain tumours
The focus on bioinformatics, the vast quantities of genetic-based information on cancer cells and patients, will allow researchers to develop tailored drugs specific to tumour types and patients requirements. Ideally minimising the need for the ‘blunt instruments’ of chemo and radiotherapy, bioinformatics are set to revolutionise the approach to develop new classifications of cancer drugs.

Sourav Bandyopadhyay, assistant professor of bioengineering and therapeutic sciences heads up a team working on identifying how existing drugs could work against specific cancer gene variants. The hope is that such research, combined with bioinformatics, could lead to radical new developments in the coming year.

“We want to turn drug discovery on its head. Instead of engineering a drug to target the unique mutations in a tiny subset of cancers, we start with the drugs we already have and find all the mutations they’re effective against,” says Dr Bandyopadhyay.

Erica Moyes, Research Manager, The Brain Tumour Charity said: Happily, this all sounds very familiar to us at The Charity. These developments address four of our five priority areas from our Research Strategy – A Cure Can’t Wait: Accelerate, Diagnose, Understand and Catalyse.

“We are very excited to see that these are international focuses and we can’t wait to share the decisions of our most recent funding rounds in the first half of 2016.

“This shows great promise for the future. The more we can understand about each person’s brain tumour, the better the treatments we will be able to use, and with these new ideas about how to deliver the drugs it is an exciting and challenging time to be funding research into brain tumours.”