Research

There are many reasons to hope for a breakthrough in low-grade brain tumour research within the near future. There were no LGG research projects underway in the UK when Astro Brain Tumour Fund was founded in 2001, we are proud what we have achieved since then.

We have also been greatly encouraged by the increasing number of low-grade glioma research projects successfully completed each year at neuro-oncology research centres around the globe.

If you are looking for previously published research papers on a particular topic, the comprehensive worldwide database is PubMed. In order to access the full text of most of the papers you have to subscribe to the relevant journal in which they were published. However all University Libraries and main City Libraries have subscriptions to those main journals, which enables you to browse the full articles online and then pay the library to print off copies. Many University libraries have an arrangement whereby you can use their facilities, so you may like to speak to your local one to find out what systems they have in place.

One of the easiest ways to view just brain tumour research papers online is to surf BrainLife. Research papers are reviewed before being published in a categorised format, and you can sign up to their regular newsletter to make sure that you never miss a new discovery.

Another website which publishes regular updates about latest research is the American website Clinical Trials and Noteworthy Treatments for Brain Tumors. For regular updates about their ependymoma research, visit the website of the American based CERN Foundation (Collaborative Ependymoma Research Network).

University of Plymouth: Low–Grade Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence

Funded by charity Brain Tumour Research, Professor Oliver Hanemann has built a Centre of Excellence that is now a leading European Research Institute for low-grade brain tumours.

The pioneering research into low-grade tumours taking place at the University of Plymouth includes astrocytoma, oligodendroglioma, schwannoma, meningioma and ependymoma.

Brain tumours are already underfunded, with much of the investment focused on high-grade (fast growing) tumours, yet Professor Oliver Hanemann and his team have taken up the mantle for low-grade brain tumours: “The Underfunded of the Underfunded”.  The compassionate, visionary team at Plymouth are determined to change the lives of all those affected by these devastating tumour types.

The Low-Grade Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence consists of a number of teams, all of whom work together in order to share knowledge and progress their discoveries as quickly as possible.

Astro Brain Tumour Fund has made grants to the Plymouth Centre of Excellence, via Brain Tumour Research’s Restricted Funding Scheme, totalling £65,760 since 2014

Matthew’s Friends and the Ketogenic Diet

Astro Brain Tumour fund funded the charity Matthew’s Friends from 2013 to 2019, enabling them to support brain tumour patients on the ketogenic diet.  The following is a report from Matthew’s Friends:

“Ketogenic therapy continues to gain momentum in all areas of oncology but it is brain tumours where we have the most significant amount of research.  It is the cases of low grade tumours, suffering from seizures and fatigue where we still believe the most immediate benefit can be achieved from the diet. We are therefore extremely grateful for the financial support that Astro Brain Tumour Fund has given over the years, which has enabled us to work with this group of patients and help them gain improved seizure control, reduce levels of fatigue and possibly have an impact on curbing tumour progression.

Our oncology team consisted of dietitian Sue Wood and her assistant nutritional therapist Catherine Zabilowicz.

Ketongenic Therapy Poster

Research to test effect of Cannabidiol on Childhood Brain Tumours

In 2018 and 2019, we co funded with Jessica Hope Foundation and Brain Tumour Action,  research into the potential efficacy and safety of cannabis oil for brain tumours patients which will, we hope, start a similar process towards clinical trials.  Without a strong evidence base for these new treatments, patients are stumbling in the dark, and as we are named after a star, we hope that our work brings light to that darkness.

The following is a press release with full details of the research:-

A non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis called cannabidiol is to be tested for its effects on paediatric brain cancer cells by experts at Nottingham’s world-leading Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre.

The research and fundraising was championed by the then four-year-old William Frost and his family from Newark, Nottinghamshire. William was diagnosed with an ependymoma brain tumour 3 years ago and is being treated at the Centre.

A non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis called cannabidiol is to be tested for its effects on paediatric brain cancer cells by experts at Nottingham’s world-leading Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre.

William’s father Steve said: “We are proud to be supporting this important new avenue of research into children’s brain tumours. We were told half way through 2016 that nothing more could be done for William. We couldn’t bear to accept the news and decided to look into alternative treatments. The two options we started were a low carbohydrate (ketogenic) diet and cannabidiol. Six months later William’s tumour had shrunk by two thirds. He is slowly improving and attending school part time”.

“Because we know how unpredictable his tumour type can be we couldn’t just sit back and hope, which is why we championed this research project so that we can find out if the cannabidiol contributed to the reduction. We also set up www.makewilliamwell.com to keep people updated on William’s progress and, more recently, to raise money for the project.
“We are over the moon that Astro Brain Tumour Fund (who also support the ketogenic diet)  agreed to significantly contribute towards the project,

Leading the research project, Professor Richard Grundy said: “Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children in the UK but the disease receives less than 1% of the UK’s cancer research funding. New ways to treat childhood brain tumours are urgently needed to extend and improve the quality of life in malignant brain tumour patients so we are excited at the prospect of testing the effect of cannabidiol on brain tumour cells.

“Increasingly families are using CBD, often at great expense, presently there is no evidence that it might be of benefit or even what dose to use or how often. It is therefore very important to obtain objective scientific evidence of whether CBD is active against Children’s Brain tumour cell lines.”

The research team grew cells from either ependymoma or glioma tumours under standard lab conditions but either with the addition of cannabidiol molecules or without. After 7 days the level of cell death was measured and the presence of viable tumour cells in the two different assays analysed.

Cell staining was used to see how many of the cells divided, whether the cells are undergoing cell death and also for a group of proteins which regulate the expression of genes – peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs)]. These PPARs play essential roles in the regulation of cell differentiation, development, metabolism and the formation of cancer.

Professor Grundy said: “We expect the cells (brain tumour and normal brain) grown in our standard conditions to be healthy and actively dividing. We expect that normal brain cells grown in cannabidiol will remain healthy. However, we expect the brain tumour cells grown in cannabidiol to stop growing and die.”

This research will form part of the pre-clinical phase of the evaluation of the potential use of cannabidiol in paediatric brain tumours.

Astro Brain Tumour Fund: Grant Funding to find new treatments for schwannomas, meningiomas and ependyomas

Prof C. Oliver Hanemann, MD, FRCP and his team at Peninsula College of Medicine & Dentistry, Plymouth, carried out vital research to find a new therapeutic approach for low grade brain tumours, including schwannomas, meningiomas and ependymomas. Taking advantage of their direct access to human material from the surgical removal of tumours, they have developed a unique model of primary human cell culture, and successfully used it to identify new drug treatments. They have also discovered a key mechanism that accounts for many of the changes in signalling pathways and growth factors occurring in tumour cells.

Prof Hanemann and his team urgently needed funding for laboratory consumables to enable them to continue this exciting research and Astro Brain Tumour Fund agreed to fund the purchase of these in 2012/2013..
Full details of the project

Astro Brain Tumour Fund: Grant Funding to research genetic abnormalities in low grade astrocytomas

Astro Brain Tumour Fund, in conjunction with Brain Tumour Action, provided grant funding for 2013 to the team led by Professor Denise Sheer, Professor of Human Genetics, Centre of Neuroscience and Trauma, at the Blizard Institute, London. Professor Sheer and her team are researching genetic abnormalities into pilocytic and other low grade astrocytomas. This work was crucial to advance our understanding and provide treatment for these common brain tumours, a disease which incapacitates and kills more children than any other cancer.

Professor Sheer’s team has been responsible for several major breakthroughs in the previous three years including the identification of specific gene fusions in virtually every case of pilocytic astrocytoma. This discovery has opened avenues for new types of treatment for low grade astrocytomas (see http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01089101). They were awarded the Jeremy Jass Prize for Excellence in Pathology for this work.

Astro Brain Tumour Fund: supporting strategic advances in UK brain tumour research

From 2010 to 2012 Astro Brain Tumour Fund worked closely with Brain Tumour North West (BTNW) through the joint appointment of Dr Carol Walker into the new role of Brain Tumour Research Co-Ordinator for BTNW.

Carol is based at The Walton Centre and Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology, both in the Liverpool area. She has extensive experience within the brain tumour research community and is a council member of the British Neuro-Oncology Society.

Her work has focused on increasing the amount of collaborative translational clinical research between BTNW members and with other UK research centres, providing a framework for larger scale studies than had previously been possible, and allowing an increased number of significant research projects into LGGs to begin. During this period she successfully applied for a number of grants, and was instrumental in the foundation of the Walton Centre Brain Tissue Bank: a crucial step to provide the building blocks for further research.

BTNW is a strategic alliance between the Universities of Central Lancashire, Wolverhampton, Manchester Metropolitan, Liverpool and Keele. Together with the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals, Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology and Walton Centre NHS Trusts, BTNW brings academic staff, consultant neurosurgeons, neuropathologists and oncologists together with specialist nurses, biomedical scientists and other allied healthcare professionals.

Ultimately, their collaborative work will result in improved and faster methods of accurate diagnosis, with effective treatment customised to the individual patient.  Astro Brain Tumour Fund are proud to have helped them on their way to achieving their goals.

See Carol’s progress report from 2011
More information and progress at the Walton Centre

Astro Brain Tumour Fund has either completely or majority funded each of the following low-grade glioma research projects:

Translocator Protein Expression and Microglial Activation in Glioma:
A PK11195 PET Study

Principal Investigator: Professor Karl Herholz, Professor of Clinical Neuroscience. Director of the Wolfson Molecular Imaging Centre (WMIC), The University of Manchester. Honorary Neurological Consultant at Hope Hospital, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust.
A collaborative project between: The Wolfson Molecular Imaging Centre (WMIC), The University of Manchester Hope Hospital, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and Imperial College, London (Charing Cross Hospital and Hammersmith Hospital)
Click here for a detailed summary of this project
Click here for Poster Presentation of the research undertaken to Spring 2010, accepted for the British Neuro-Oncology Society Annual Conference, 23rd June-25th June 2010

 

Molecular genetic and epigenetic analysis of paediatric Low-Grade Gliomas.

Principal Investigator: Professor Denise Sheer, Professor of Human Genetics, Institute of Cell and Molecular Science, Queen Mary, University of London
Click here for a detailed summary of this project

 

Investigation of the functions of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor-A and Interleukin-10 in low and high-grade brain tumours, and the potential of these factors as prognostic markers.

Principal Investigators: Dr John Greenman, Reader in Tumour Immunology, Postgraduate Medical Institute, University of Hull and Mr David O’Brien, Consultant Neurosurgeon and Honorary Senior Lecturer, Hull Royal Infirmary.
Click here for a detailed summary of this project

 

Radiological and Molecular markers of subsequent behaviour in adult low-grade glioma

Principal Investigator: Dr Tracey Warr, Lecturer in Molecular Tumour Genetics, Department of Molecular Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology, National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery, Queen Square, London.
Click here for a detailed summary of this project

 

Advanced Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Metabolic Studies of Low-Grade Gliomas of Childhood.

A collaborative project between:
Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre, Queen’s Medical Centre, Nottingham
Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Institute of Child Health
Royal Marsden Hospital and Institute of Cancer Research, Surrey.
Principal Investigator: Prof Richard Grundy, Professor of Paediatric Neuro-Oncology and Cancer Biology, Honorary Consultant in Paediatric Oncology, University of Nottingham.
Click here for a detailed summary of this project

 

Save lives – be a brain tumour tissue donor

Brain tumour tissue is removed everyday by surgeons but very few patients know they can donate brain tumour tissue to research.  A new campaign launched today [Tuesday 24 February] at the University of Bristol led by leading medical researchers and charity, brainstrust seeks to raise awareness for patients and healthcare professionals about donating brain tumour tissue and helping researchers find a cure for this disease.

A recent national survey indicated that only 30 per cent of brain tumour patients are offered the opportunity to consent for their brain tumour tissue to be used in research.  Yet a recent poll by brainstrust suggested that over 90 per cent of patients would be keen for their tissue to be used.

Sixty-thousand people in the UK are living with a brain tumour, 4,750 individuals are diagnosed with brain cancer every year and a further 4,500 are diagnosed with non-invasive tumours of the central nervous system.

However, many people are unaware that researchers do not have enough tissue to carry out their research and this is slowing down their work.  By patients giving their consent, medical researchers will be able to use the donated brain tumour tissue for research into better treatments and to help find a cure for brain cancer.

The new campaign will close the gap by addressing the following issues:

  • Increasing patient awareness around donating brain tumour tissue;
  • Ensuring healthcare professionals understand the processes involved;
  • Helping centres engage in the tissue banking network.

Go to http://www.brainstrust.org.uk/tissue-donation.php for further details.