Brain Tumour Research

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.

More on the Brain Tumour Research charity

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

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.

Collaborations

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).


Biobanking

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.

Academic collaboration

If you have an idea for a research project related to low-grade brain tumours, please get in touch with Professor C. Oliver Hanneman:

Commercial collaboration

If you are a business or organisation, Enterprise Solutions will help you to navigate the University's internationally recognised expertise, facilities and business services. They will support with more information on how your business can benefit from connecting and collaborating with the University of Plymouth – both on Brain Tumour Research and beyond.

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Recent grant funding

  • NIHR, TBC, 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

  • Vivace Therapeutics, 2019-20, to fund a Post-doc Research Fellow, focused on in vivo schwannomas. £29,000

  • Peninsula Medical Foundation, 2019, to fund 3 years of a PhD studentship, focused on organoid meningioma models. £66,000 

AiPBAND

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
  • design three types of multiplex biosensor - plasmonic-based, graphene-based, and digital ELISA assay-based
  • development of a big data-empowered intelligent data management infrastructure
  • development of cloud-based diagnostic systems.