Increasing understanding of the genetics and biology of tumour development to identify effective new treatments.
Conventional therapies for brain tumours have had limited efficacy over several decades resulting in consistently poor survival rates alongside severe side effects. There remains, therefore, a high unmet need to develop new treatments.
There are over 130 different types of brain tumour, each with differing biological characteristics. The underlying molecular mechanisms and pathways involved in tumour growth are complex and poorly understood for many of these tumour types.
"It might look like a collection of characters, but the little code 1p/19q is life changing to me."
Gideon was diagnosed with an incurable and inoperable glioma aged 34. New biopsy tests have have revealed that his tumour has a particular genetic sequence, 1p/19q, that means he has a better prognosis and can look further into the future than originally thought.
Developing new and targeted treatments
To develop new treatments, we need to understand the changes occurring within tumour cells. This will provide information on how tumours begin to grow, how cells within tumours differ from one another and why many tumours are resistant to treatment.
Through advances in genomics, we can now gain a more detailed understanding of the biological make-up and characteristics of tumour types to develop molecular profiles. This can be used to develop targeted treatments as well as aiding diagnosis. By understanding a patient's individual tumour and giving more precise and potentially kinder treatments, this could reduce their side effects and dramatically improve quality of life.
We are currently funding several research projects that are investigating new treatments that specifically target tumour cells. Dr David Michod and his team are currently studying whether a protein known as DAXX can act as a potential new target for drugs treating glioblastomas. Professor Denise Sheer at Queen Mary University London is also searching for new drug targets by looking for genetic abnormalities which distinguish low grade astrocytoma cells from healthy brain cells.
The characteristics of a brain tumour can change over the course of the disease. In some cases tumours can progress from low to high grade disease, however we do not have a clear understanding of how and why this change in tumour aggression happens. Some tumour cells are also able to invade other areas of the brain, which makes these tumours difficult to treat. We want to understand the mechanisms in the cells that instigate this process.