Dr Claudia Barros, Lecturer in Neuroscience

Scientists working to better understand and find a cure for brain tumours have made progress in identifying initial events in cells that can lead to tumour growth. 
The research team – based at the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at the University of Plymouth – uncovered 'readying' processes which occur just prior to brain tumour onset but which could be vital for tumour growth.
Using Drosophila fruit flies as a model, they were able to pinpoint changes that can be involved in turning a healthy cell into a tumour cell inside the brain. They then translated some of the findings using glioma cells.
The data uncovered enabled the research team to identify in greater detail a mechanism whereby the protein HEATR1 – the overexpression of which is linked to poor prognosis in glioma – works with the growth regulator MYC and is required to increase the production of ribosomes that are essential machinery within cells for brain tumour growth.
In a study published in the EMBO Reports journal, the team – led by Dr Claudia Barros – say more work is needed to understand the precise implications of these very early changes.
However, they add that slowing or preventing tumour growth is vital in improving quality of life and survival rates for patients.

The research contributes to increase our understanding of how brain tumours could form, and opens up avenues of research to find new potential drug targets for therapies of glioma tumours.

Using the fruit fly Drosophila as a model, we have been able to identify and examine cells at the very initial stages of brain tumour formation inside the brain. These cells have most striking differences in their metabolic and protein balance landscape compared to normal cells. 

Claudia BarrosClaudia Barros
Associate Professor of Neuroscience (Research)

The study is the latest to be published as part of ongoing work taking place at the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at the University of Plymouth.
That wider work is helping researchers to develop a better understanding of brain tumours, which include low and high grade types.

There is much work still to be done but these early findings are significant because, with more investigation, it could help us develop new treatments which will target tumour cells more effectively and so improve outcomes for patients.

Dr Karen Noble, Director of Research, Policy and Innovation at Brain Tumour Research 
The full study – Diaz et al: Ribogenesis boosts controlled by HEATR1-MYC interplay promote transition into brain tumour growth – is published in EMBO Reports, doi: 10.1038/s44319-023-00017-1.
The work was sponsored by Brain Tumour Research, Brain Research UK, Tenovus Cancer Care, FCT (Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia), and the University of Plymouth.

Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence 

Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease since records began in 2002.
National charity Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK to help understand the cause and ultimately work towards a cure. One such centre is at the University of Plymouth, with researchers delivering studies of international significance.
Brain tumour research team in the lab
Brain tumour

Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research

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