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Scientists at the Everest Centre to transform treatments for childhood brain tumours

Experts at University College London, Queen Mary University of London and Great Ormond Street Hospital are to develop pioneering treatments for children diagnosed with low-grade brain tumours.

The Everest Centre researchers, based in London, have been awarded £1.6 million by The Brain Tumour Charity. This will advance knowledge of low-grade brain tumours, how they behave in the body, how to better treat them and how to improve quality of life for children affected.

The Everest Centre

The research will be carried out in collaboration with researchers at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). And will continue the ground-breaking work of The Everest Centre, following a second total investment of £5 million by The Brain Tumour Charity.

The Everest Centre for Research into Paediatric Low-Grade Gliomas was established in the UK and Germany in 2017 with an initial £5 million funding from The Brain Tumour Charity.

“Thanks to funding from The Brain Tumour Charity, our achievements so far lay down a strong foundation for developing new approaches to treatments for children with low-grade brain tumours.

JP Martinez-Barbera, Professor of Developmental Biology and Cancer at UCL

We need kinder and more effective treatments

More than 400 children are diagnosed with a brain tumour each year in the UK. Of these, approximately half are low-grade tumours.

Kinder and more effective treatments are needed as 20% of children do not survive for more than 20 years following a diagnosis. The current standard of care, which includes chemotherapy, radiotherapy and high-risk surgery, has a significant impact on a child’s quality of life. The Everest Centre aims to change this.

Research at UCL

Scientists at University College London (UCL) will focus their research on tumour biology. They aim to understand the genetic make-up of low-grade tumours as this will help to improve the precision of diagnosis and work towards more personalised treatments to benefit patients.

They will also compare key features of low-grade paediatric brain tumours with other tumours in children. And will explore how brain tumours protect themselves from the immune system and resist treatment.

Improving understanding of how tumour growth is controlled in the body is a key research focus. In addition to how ‘sleeping’ (also known as senescent) cells influence tumour growth and respond to treatment, which could help improve treatment options in the future.

Novel artificial intelligence (AI) systems will be developed to improve diagnosis of low-grade brain tumours. Using AI could be particularly useful in countries where molecular testing of tumours is costly.

The researchers at UCL will play an important role in translating laboratory science into direct patient benefit. They will support the establishment of an innovative clinical trial, known as EPILOGUE, to identify new treatment options for patients. Ulixertinib, a drug recently discovered by scientists at The Everest Centre as a potential new treatment for low-grade brain tumours in children, will be one of the first drugs tested in the EPILOGUE trial.

And, by introducing a new quality of life questionnaire, researchers and clinicians will understand the effects of treatments on children.

A deeper understanding of low-grade tumours will help us identify targets for new potential treatments. Our collaborations in the UK and Germany will allow us to harmonise diagnostic practises across Europe which will benefit those newly diagnosed.

Tom Jacques, Professor of Paediatric Neuropathology at UCL

Research at Queen Mary University of London

Researchers at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) will investigate tumour cell growth and MAPK signalling. This signalling controls the way cells multiply, survive and die. And is the most frequently altered pathway in paediatric low-grade brain tumours.

In order to offer alternative and better treatments to those diagnosed with these tumours, researchers must understand the MAPK pathway. And how it influences resistance to treatment and regrowth of tumour cells.

Our research focus is to investigate the molecular signalling pathways inside the tumour cells. We know that certain pathways, like the MAPK pathway, are altered in low-grade tumour cells, but we need to understand more about how they regulate the balance between cell division and cell senescence, and how this impacts the cells’ response to different treatments.

Denise Sheer, Professor of Human Genetics at QMUL

World-leading research at the Everest Centre

The Everest Centre is a world-leading collaboration bringing together brain tumour scientists in Germany and the UK.

The success of the first five years of funding led to fundamental changes in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) classification of paediatric low-grade brain tumours. With paediatric tumours gaining their own category for the first time. This classification includes several new tumour subtypes identified by scientists working at The Everest Centre. Research also resulted in the discovery of novel drugs that may offer new treatment options for children.

The generosity of the adventure company Everest in the Alps has made funding the centre possible. All inspired by eleven-year-old Toby Ritchie, who was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour at the age of five.

We want our research to improve the lives of children diagnosed a brain tumour, and the research we are going to carry out with this funding will enable us to do this.
It is so important to translate the research we do in the labs into better outcomes to children.

Darren Hargrave, Clinical Professor of Paediatric Neuro-oncology at UCL and Great Ormond Street Hospital

What does our expert think?

Dr David Jenkinson, Chief Scientific Officer at The Brain Tumour Charity, which funds the Everest Centre, said:

“The Everest Centre offers a unique opportunity for researchers in London and Germany to improve the knowledge and treatments for low-grade brain tumours in children.

“We desperately need to find better and kinder treatments. This pioneering research will open doors for personalised treatments and improved survival rates. While also focussing to improve quality of life for children with a low-grade brain tumour diagnosis.

“Our excellent network of world-class scientists puts people at the centre of the work they do. And bridging the gap between research and patient needs is an important step to ensure we can find a cure for brain tumours.

“The next five years of funding and collaboration brings hope to the children diagnosed with a low-grade brain tumour. And we very much look forward to sharing more of our successes in the future.”

Dr. David Jones

Based in the Germany at the German Cancer Research Center, Dr. Jones is researching low-grade gliomas in children. He leads the work carried out at the Everest Centre for Research into Paediatric Low-Grade Brain Tumours. The Everest Centre is a ground-breaking international research initiative bringing together experts from Germany and the UK