Plymouth researchers in first ever UK collaborative brain tumour research workshop
Brain Tumour Scientists Workshop 2015

In an exciting step forward to finding a cure for brain tumours, which kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, the national charity Brain Tumour Research brought together a group of leading brain tumour scientists and clinicians to help accelerate vital research into this devastating disease. 

A dozen researchers drawn from across the charity’s four Research Centres of Excellence – Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, Plymouth University, Queen Mary University of London (in partnership with UCL in London) and the University of Portsmouth – met at Lydiard House conference venue in Swindon at the end of May to each present the latest developments from their respective research programmes. 

This ground-breaking workshop – the first of its kind in the UK organised by a brain tumour charity – was aimed at fostering pro-active partnerships between key research hubs. Sharing their insights, the team looked at developments in research for low and high-grade brain tumours, adult and paediatric brain tumours, and multi-pronged targeting of brain tumours by attacking mitochondria that control cancer cell growth and killing the stem cells that produce new cancer cells. Surgical advances were also revealed, including updates on the iKnife – a smart scalpel that can ‘sniff out’ cancer cells during surgery and provide real-time diagnostic information about the type of brain tumour being operated on.

The scientists identified some distinct areas of prospective collaboration and interaction between the four centres to speed up the process of research translation from laboratory into clinical trials in order to provide better outcomes for brain tumour patients in future and to one day find a cure. These included developing new initiatives and procedures around biobanking, obtaining and sharing brain tumour tissue samples, equipment sharing, pathology support, and imaging technology. Everyone recognised the need for greater funding to fast-track research translation from laboratory to clinic and to combine efforts to combat glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and deadly form of brain tumour with very low survival rates. 

Professor Geoff Pilkington, from the charity’s first research Centre of Excellence based at the University of Portsmouth, said: 

“This funding stream is enabling us to look at so many diverse areas of research. Repurposing drugs, new drug delivery systems, paediatric neuro-oncology, cancer metastases, the brain tumour micro-environment and a mitochondrial and metabolic approach to brain tumours. 

Professor Oliver Hanemann, Associate Dean Research at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry and lead research for brain tumours at Plymouth, added:

“This workshop was a strong step forward for our research. There was a lot of challenging debate among the team about what we wanted to prioritise in future collaborations. Having Brain Tumour Research facilitate this kind of workshop meant that we were challenged to really identify the best areas of research where we felt we could advance and maximise results together.”  

Sue Farrington Smith, Chief Executive of Brain Tumour Research said: 

“We now have four flourishing Brain Tumour Research Centres in the UK, which means we are able to build on specialist brain tumour expertise and experience and encourage cross-pollination of the very best thinking at the cutting edge of brain tumour research. Our ultimate vision is to find a cure for brain tumours through acceleration of research into this most devastating of diseases. Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer… Yet just one per cent of the national spend on cancer research is allocated to this devastating disease. This is unacceptable! We are striving to fund a network of seven dedicated research centres whilst challenging the government and larger cancer charities to invest more in brain tumour research. Help us fund the fight. Together we will find a cure.”