Dr Sylwia Ammoun at work in her laboratory

The University of Plymouth will be continuing its research into the advancement of neuro-tumour treatments thanks to more than £100,000 from Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and Sparks, the medical research charity.

Led by Dr Sylwia Ammoun, Senior Research Fellow in Clinical Neurobiology, together with her co-applicant Professor Oliver Hanemann, the project team will use the funding to further investigate causes of hereditary condition Neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2).

The grant follows the team’s 2017 study, published in leading cancer journal Oncogene, revealing the role of the normal, cellular form of prion protein (PrPC) in the development of NF2-related tumours.

The team found for the first time that PrPC is over-produced in schwannoma (a benign tumour of the tissue that covers nerves) compared with healthy Schwann cells. This overproduction is due to deficiency of a tumour suppressor called Merlin, and strongly contributes to tumour growth and patient prognosis.

Dr Ammoun is part of the University of Plymouth’s Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence – one of four institutions in the UK partnered with national charity Brain Tumour Research using ‘world-class’ research to accelerate progress towards finding a cure.

The funding comes as part of a £2.1 million investment by Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity and Sparks, marking the largest charitable funding call dedicated to child health research in the UK.

Dr Ammoun said: 

“I am delighted to have received funding from GOSH Charity and Sparks which will enable our team to further investigate NF2, which is characterised by the development of multiple tumours of the nervous system such as schwannomas, meningiomas and ependymomas. Brain tumours kill more people under 40 than any other cancer, so it’s vital that we keep investigating them and work towards finding a cure sooner. It’s fantastic to know that these two charities will are making such a large amount available for child health researchers across the UK to bid for each year. We made large strides in last year’s study, and we’re looking forward to making more as a result of this funding.”

The £2.1 million is funding 13 more researchers at 10 different Institutions across the UK from Plymouth to Liverpool, looking at treatments for a range of diseases such as stem cell therapy for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, immunotherapy treatment for brain tumours, new treatments for children with a type of motor neuron disease, and diagnostic techniques for cerebral palsy.

The projects reflect the ambition of the charities to enable new treatments to be taken from the lab bench to the patient’s bedside, speeding up the diagnosis and treatment of complex conditions.

Tim Johnson, Chief Executive of GOSH Charity and Sparks said: 

“For many seriously ill children, research is their only hope, yet paediatric research is severely underfunded, receiving only five per cent of public and charitable funding research in the UK each year. By making more money available to researchers from across the country we will help them to find new ways to diagnose, treat and cure complex diseases that affect children.”

Kiki Syrad, Director of Grants and Impact at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity said: 

“The invitation to researchers to apply for funding received a huge response from the paediatric research community. We look forward to seeing how Dr Ammoun’s project progresses.”

Sylwia Ammoun: senior research fellow

After completing her PhD dissertation at Uppsala, Sweden, Sylwia came to our Centre of Excellence for her post-doctoral research.

"Research at the University of Plymouth is progressing and expanding. We have just finished phase 0 clinical trials on NF2 patients," she said.

"We have a very effective, supportive, and strong team here and we are collaborating with other centres both in the UK and abroad."

To those who support the research through fundraising and even simply through discussions with others, Sylwia wishes to say:

"A big thank you! Without you we would not get far with our research."

Dr Sylwia Ammoun, who has been promoted to Senior Research Fellow at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry