INSTINCT - on a mission to beat childhood brain tumours

Aiming to develop new drugs targeting specific mutations in tumours by using cutting-edge screening techniques to identify critical genetic and biochemical features of aggressive brain tumours in children.

Researchers based at the major brain tumour research centres at Newcastle University, the University College London Institute of Child Health (ICH) and the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) are exploring new ways to treat some of the most lethal childhood brain tumours. The team aims to save lives by developing tailored and targeted treatments.

The study will use the latest screening techniques to identify the genetic and biochemical profiles of aggressive brain tumours in children. The team will then link the tumour profile with the progress of each patient to identify links between tumour characteristcs and prognosis.

A better understanding of the biological mechanisms that drive brain tumours means that the researchers can develop drugs that target specific tumour characteristics.

Researchers hope that screening brain tumours will give patients a more accurate diagnosis and lead to personalised treatment that specifically targets the biological mechanism responsible for tumour development.

Personalising treatment ensures that patients with more aggressive brain tumours receive a more intense course of therapy, and will spare patients with a less severe form of tumour from unnecessarily harsh and debilitating treatments.

This £4 million research programme, known as INSTINCT, has been funded by The Brain Tumour Charity in conjunction with Children with Cancer UK and Great Ormond Street Children's Charity and will run for five years.

Each of the research centres will focus on a different high-risk childhood brain tumour such as medulloblastomas (Newcastle), diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (ICR) and ETANTR, a lethal embryonal tumour with abundant neuropil and true rosettes (ICH).

It is hoped that this research programme will greatly enhance our understanding of these aggressive tumours and that this new understanding can be rapidly translated into new and effective treatments.

Programme information

Formal title: The Institute of Child Health - Newcastle University – Institute of Cancer Research High-Risk Childhood Brain Tumour Network (INSTINCT)

Key Researchers: Prof. Steven Clifford, Newcastle University, Dr Chris Jones, Institute of Cancer Research, Dr Darren Hargrave, UCL Instititute of Child Health

Tumour type: High-grade paediatric

Research type: Integrated translational research programme

Timing: Granted in May 2014 for five years