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Scientists join forces to transform treatments for childhood brain tumours

Experts at Queen Mary University of London, University College London (UCL), and Great Ormond Street Hospital are joining forces with researchers in Germany to develop pioneering treatments for children diagnosed with brain tumours, following major new funding from the UK’s leading brain tumour charity.

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Professor Denise Sheer
Professor Denise Sheer

The researchers have been awarded £1.6 million by The Brain Tumour Charity to advance knowledge of low-grade brain tumours, how they behave in the body, how to better treat them and how to improve the quality of life for children affected.

The Everest Centre for Research into Paediatric Low-Grade Gliomas is a world-leading collaboration, bringing together pioneering brain tumour scientists from German Cancer Research Center in Germany  (DKFZ) and UCL and Queen Mary in the UK.

The Charity’s funding of the centre has been made possible by the generosity of adventure challenge company Everest in the Alps, which has raised nearly £5 million for the Centre since 2015, with the Centre opening in 2017.

More than 400 children are diagnosed with a brain tumour each year in the UK and of these, approximately half are low-grade tumours. Kinder and more effective treatments are needed as 20% of children do not survive for more than 20 years following a diagnosis. The current standard of care, which includes chemotherapy, radiotherapy and high-risk surgery, has a significant impact on a child’s quality of life. The Everest Centre aims to change this.

The success of the first five years of funding at The Everest Centre led to fundamental changes in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) classification of paediatric low-grade brain tumours, with paediatric tumours gaining their own category for the first time. This classification includes several new tumour subtypes identified at the Centre. Research there has also resulted in the discovery of novel drugs that may offer new treatment options for children.

Denise Sheer, Professor of Human Genetics at Queen Mary, said:
“Our research focus is to investigate the molecular signalling pathways inside the tumour cells that are critical in paediatric low-grade brain tumours. We know that certain pathways, like the MAPK pathway, are altered in low-grade tumour cells, but we need to understand more about how they regulate the balance between cell division and cell senescence, and how this impacts the cells’ response to different treatments.
“The Everest Centre’s research has already led to promising advances in our knowledge of the molecular mechanisms in low-grade brain tumours in children, and we look forward to this exciting next phase of the research programme.”

Dr David Jenkinson, Chief Scientific Officer at The Brain Tumour Charity, which funds the Everest Centre, said:
The Everest Centre offers a unique opportunity for researchers in London and Germany to improve the knowledge and treatments for low-grade brain tumours in children.
“We desperately need to find better and kinder treatments. This pioneering research will open doors for personalised treatments and improved survival rates, while focussing on improving quality of life for children with a low-grade brain tumour diagnosis.
“Our excellent network of world-class scientists puts people at the centre of the work they do and bridging the gap between research and patient needs, is an important step to ensuring we can find a cure for brain tumours.
“The next five years of funding and collaboration brings hope to the children diagnosed with a low-grade brain tumour and we very much look forward to sharing more of our successes in the future.”






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