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Brain Cancer Research

Cancer ResearchBrain cancer, often called glioma, glioblastoma, or meningioma is a cancer that develops from the cells of your brain, the covering of the brain, or the nerves. These tumours are relatively rare, but they are very hard to treat effectively. Treatment is often by surgery, but may also include chemotherapy and radiotherapy depending on the exact type of brain cancer and the location in the brain. More than 30 people die each week in Yorkshire from a brain tumour.


The first signs of brain cancer is often a constant headache and feeling of sickness that lasts for more than a week, sometimes accompanies by drowsiness or seizures. Then, as the tumour grows further symptoms can develop which depend on the location of the tumour in the brain. These can be things such as changes in personality, problems with sight or movement, or changes in smells and tastes.



Cancer ResearchIdentification and characterisation of microRNAs involved in Glioblastoma proliferation and survival

Glioblastoma is the most devastating type of brain cancer and improved understanding and better treatments are urgently needed. This study examined the function of recently discovered cellular molecules called microRNAs in the survival of glioblastoma cells. There are approximately 1000 different microRNAs made in humans. Professor Short’s lab examined the effects of altering the functions of these microRNAs in glioblastoma cells before studying the mechanisms of the microRNAs with the most striking effects on glioblastoma cell growth in detail. This results of this study will set the stage for further development of microRNA-based therapeutic strategies for glioblastoma.


  • Principle investigator: Professor Susan Short
  • Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology
  • Award amount: £206,616
  • June 2012 – June 2015



Cancer ResearchMicroRNA functions in brain tumour biology

MicroRNAs are a type of molecule that helps switch genes on and off. The number and types of different microRNAs that are in a cancer cell can give clues as to which cell functions have become dysregulated. They can also help to identify whether a specific treatment might work on a tumour, and can help predict whether a tumour will be more aggressive. Professor Short’s group has already identified patterns of microRNAs that predict whether patients have a more aggressive form of glioblastoma (brain tumour) and whether patients will respond to treatment with a currently available drug, Avastin.


  • Principle investigator: Professor Susan Short
  • Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology
  • Award amount: £52,692
  • October 2012 – September 2015



Cancer ResearchTargeting cancer stem-like cells for treatment of glioma

Gliomas account for over half of all primary brain tumours and have a very poor prognosis, with a median survival of less than two years. None of the treatments currently used for glioma are very successful and they invariably fail to prevent recurrence. One reason for this is that damaged tissue surrounding the tumour produces certain molecules that aid the survival of the tumour cells. A team in Bradford are developing agents that can specifically target and disable the activity of these molecules so that growth and expansion of gliomas are prevented.


  • Principle investigator: Dr Kamyar Afarinkia
  • Institute of Cancer Therapeutics, University of Bradford
  • Award amount: £52,491
  • October 2012 – September 2015



Cancer ResearchMedulloblastoma: origins in Sonic Hedgehog signalling dysfunction

Medulloblastoma is the main type of childhood brain tumour, occurring in the cerebellum. It is known that disruption to the normal mechanisms behind the growth of the cerebellum can lead to medulloblastoma. Dr Furley’s lab in Sheffield have identified a gene that may help regulate one of the growth mechanisms in the cerebellum and are now testing whether this gene is involved in the development of medulloblastoma. A better understanding of these pathways, and how they go wrong in cancer, will potentially provide new targets for therapy.


  • Principle investigator: Dr Andrew Furley
  • University of Sheffield
  • Award amount: £195,921
  • September 2012 – January 2016



Cancer ResearchDevelopment of an anti-invasive therapeutic strategy for paediatric high grade gliomas

Paediatric high grade gliomas (pHGG) are aggressive brain tumours associated with poor outcomes. Tumour cells are capable of invading into the brain, escaping surgical removal. New treatments that block this invasion are needed. Some viruses can act as anti-cancer agents by attacking tumours, however, their effect on paediatric brain tumour invasion is unknown. A team in Leeds will investigate the effects of an anti-cancer virus (HSV) on the invasive behaviour of paediatric high grade glioma cells. The team has shown that HSV is capable of reducing invasion of these cells and may have therapeutic benefits, improving outcomes for this devastating disease.


  • Principle investigator: Dr Julia Cockle
  • University of Leeds
  • Award amount: £188,348
  • January 2013 – January 2016



Cancer ResearchOncolytic virotherapy for brain tumours

Patients with brain tumours have very poor prognosis due to the lack of efficient therapies. Oncolytic viruses kill cancer cells while preserving normal tissue, and therefore show great promise as anti-cancer agents. One of the biggest limitations of virus treatment is the fact that only small numbers of active viruses make it into the brain. This study will look into whether a certain kind of white blood cell (monocytes) can be used to carry more oncolytic viruses into the brain, improving the impact of brain tumour treatment. The findings of this study will directly inform clinical trials using oncolytic viruses in brain tumours that are starting in Leeds in 2013.


  • Principle investigator: Mr David Taggart and Dr Mihaela Lorger
  • University of Leeds
  • Award amount: £68,292
  • October 2013 – September 2016



Cancer ResearchAssessment of the Fanconi Anaemia pathway and its inhibition in glioblastoma muliforme

Many forms of cancer therapy kill cancer cells by damaging their DNA. However, if cancer cells have effective DNA repair mechanisms, they may be able to survive these kinds of therapy. This means that treatment is ineffective and the cancer is likely to come back. This study will look at a specific DNA repair mechanism in glioblastomas (brain cancers), and whether using new drugs to prevent this DNA repair will increase the effectiveness of chemo/radiotherapy. This will help create better outcomes for brain cancer patients, who often have low survival and a high chance of cancer recurrence.


  • Principle investigator: Dr Spencer Collis
  • University of Sheffield
  • Award amount: £152,716
  • January 2014 – September 2016



Cancer ResearchAnalysing single cells from patient’s brain tumours

A single tumour contains many cancer cells, and not all of them are the same. Some cancer cells are more aggressive and resistant to conventional treatment and if these cells survive treatment, they will cause the tumour to regrow. Dr Lucy Stead’s lab in Leeds will improve methods to isolate single cells from brain tumours for analysis. This will give researchers better knowledge about what makes aggressive and treatment-resistant cells different.


  • Principle investigator: Dr Lucy Stead
  • Leeds Institute of Cancer & Pathology
  • Award amount: £44,621
  • September 2015 – Septemeber 2016