Brain tumours are a leading threat to human health
Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than
any other cancer, with 10 lives lost each day. This presents a stark picture
for public health, particularly as there is very little understanding of what
causes brain tumours and this area of research is critically underfunded –
receiving only one per cent of the national spend on cancer research.
One of three dedicated centres in the UK
Our team of researchers, led by Professor Oliver Hanemann, works closely with the charity Brain Tumour Research as one of three UK universities with a Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence.
The Centre are each invested in advancing knowledge of brain tumours, building the wealth of expertise that is needed to find a cure.
Low-grade brain tumours
Our team are leaders in the investigation of low-grade brain tumours, which are usually slow-growing and frequently affect children and young adults.
Such tumours can be just as devastating as malignant high-grade tumours. They can bring equally dangerous and debilitating effects to patients, by causing neurological conditions including loss of balance, weakness, cognitive problems, poor hearing, epilepsy, and personality changes. Eventually, almost all low-grade brain tumours progress to high-grade.
With close links to hospitals in Plymouth and Bristol, our work focuses on identifying and understanding the mechanisms that make a cell become cancerous and exploring ways in which to halt or reverse this process.
We are working to find new biomarkers and therapeutic targets for low-grade brain tumours, to test new drugs and to investigate how existing drugs could be re-purposed as therapies for brain tumours.
Our research is facilitated using a number of complementary methods and models, driven by both hypothesis and -omic discovery approaches (particularly genomics and proteomics).
Current areas of specific research activity include:
- mechanisms of tumour initiation
- setting international standards for biomarker development in Neurofibromatosis
- defining new drug targets in merlin-deficient brain tumours
- investigating use of combination therapy through research into brain tumour micro-environment and tumour immunology.
Simply put, we aim to identify which biomarkers stratify tumours into sub-types, and which biomarkers differentiate between lower and higher-grade tumours.
We also want to identify and validate new drug targets, with recent tests of drug candidates showing positive results at low concentrations, making them more likely to be translated successfully in future clinical trials.
This is vital work, as the only treatments currently available for these brain tumours are invasive surgery and/or radiotherapy.
Our Centre’s research is supported by a range of successful collaborations including with Imperial College and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer centre, and we are part of the International REiNS consortium (Response Evaluation in Neurofibromatosis and Schwannomatosis).
Our research is supported and enabled by our established neurofibromatosis and meningioma biobanks and a developing low-grade glioma biobank, which include matched blood samples.
Our biobank is now listed in the UK Clinical Research Collaborations’ tissue directory.
If you have an idea for a research project related to low-grade brain tumours, please get in touch with Professor C. Oliver Hanneman:
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Recent grant funding
- NIHR, 2020-23, to fund 3 years of an Academic Clinical Fellowship. £144,225
- Animal Free Research UK, 2020-23, to fund 3 years of a PhD studentship, focused on the involvement of TAM receptors in meningiomas and schwannomas. £84,369
- Royal College Surgeons England (RCSE), 2020-21, to fund a Research Fellow, focused on biomarker discovery and validation for meningioma. £33,287
- Children's Tumour Foundation, 2020-22, to fund a Post-doc Research Fellow, focused on the use of novel YAP/TEAD inhibitors to target Merlin null tumours. £68,000
- Vivace Therapeutics, 2019-20, to fund a Post-doc Research Fellow, focused on in vivo schwannomas. £29,000.
2020-22, further funding of Post-doc Research Fellow, focused on the use of novel YAP/TEAD inhibitors to target Merlin null tumours. £35,000
- Peninsula Medical Foundation, 2019-22, to fund 3 years of a PhD studentship, focused on organoid meningioma models. £66,000
- University of Plymouth Competitive Award, 2020-22, to fund a PhD student, focused on decoding mechanisms of brain tumour initiating cell adaption and tumour growth
An integrated platform for developing brain cancer diagnostic techniques
AiPBAND is a four-year, €3.7 million, pan-European, Horizon 2020, Marie Curie Innovative Training Network led by researchers at the University of Plymouth, designed to train the next generation of researchers in the early diagnosis of brain tumours.
The network comprises nine academic and three non-academic organisations, belonging to five EU member states and six partner organisations, with fields ranging from neuroscience, engineering and big data science to healthcare, clinical trials and economics. The initiative has four key objectives:
- identify new
blood biomarkers for patients with brain tumours
three types of multiplex biosensor - plasmonic-based, graphene-based, and
digital ELISA assay-based
of a big data-empowered intelligent data management infrastructure
of cloud-based diagnostic systems.