This scheme is designed to encourage innovative thinking that could fundamentally change our understanding, diagnosis and/or management of brain tumours.
We hope this research may eventually lead to significant improvements in clinical outcome, including quality of life, for patients with brain tumours.
3D printing of brain tumour cells
Primary Investigator: Dr Nicholas Leslie, Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh
Dr Leslie is a Reader and Associate Professor at Heriot Watt University, within the Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering. He moved there from the University of Dundee, and before that the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Glasgow. Dr Leslie has previously been awarded a coveted programme grant from the Medical Research Council.
Up until now, researchers have struggled to get a true view of how brain tumour cells behave because of the difficulties in recreating the human brain environment in the lab. Dr Leslie has, for the first time, found an innovative way of using 3D printing to print and mix glioblastoma stem cells with other cell types common within brain tumours.
Dr Leslie's work will now create a more realistic model for testing treatments, meaning they can get to patients faster.
Exploring how networks are formed
Primary Investigator: Mr Michael Hart, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge
As well as being a neurosurgeon at Addenbrooke's Hospital, Mr Hart is also studying towards his PhD. In 2015 he received two awards for his work into how parts of the brain are connected. Mr Hart is also a neuro-oncology editor with the Cochrane Collaboration, an organisation which analyses the best information available from published research to inform change in healthcare systems.
Mr Hart's research aims to explore how networks are formed to the remote areas of the brain that are responsible for complex cognitive functions such as problem solving. By doing so, he hopes to define exactly how much of a low grade glioma can be removed while retaining as much brain function as possible.
This research could have an immediate impact by decreasing the after effects of surgery including lowering the chance of seizures.
Understanding left-over tumour cells
Primary Investigator: Mr Stuart Smith, The University of Nottingham
Mr Stuart Smith is a Clinical Associate Professor of Neurosurgery with the Nottingham University Hospital NHS Trust, he also holds a post as a researcher at the University of Nottingham. In 2013, Mr Smith received the "courtesy title of Hunterian Professor", a prize from the Royal College Surgeons of England for his high quality surgical research.
Mr Smith will be using the 5ALA drink which is taken by patients ahead of surgery to make tumorous cells glow pink (and why it's also known as 'the pink drink') to analyse the residual cancer cells left in a patient's brain after surgery.
Mr Stuart Smith explains his research further in this video.
By removing these cells - which will also glow pink - and identifying the precise mutations within them, he hopes to develop targeted treatments which could lead to fewer tumour recurrences.
Uncovering tumour transition
Primary Investigator: Dr Paul Brennan, The Cancer research UK Centre, Edinburgh
Dr Paul Brennan is a Senior Clinical Lecturer specialising in neuro-oncology and translational neurosurgery. In 2014 Dr Brennan was awarded the Lancet Young Investigator Award for his PhD work on stem cells in glioma. He may be a familiar face because he is also working with The Charity to find out how we can decrease the time taken to diagnose adult brain tumours.
Dr Brennan is looking at how and why some low grade gliomas change into high grade gliomas. By undertaking tests on low grade cells, he hopes to define the biomarkers (indicators, such as genes, molecules or other biological substances found in blood or cells, which can be used to measure or diagnose a tumour) that are changing the cells.
Dr Brennan's work could facilitate earlier detection of when tumours become aggressive and could allow for drugs to be tested to slow or stop this transition.