INSTINCT: High-risk childhood brain tumour network - improving treatments

17 February 2014

Professor Steve Clifford, Newcastle University

Brain tumours are the leading cause of death from cancer in childhood. We are partnering with the Brain Tumour Charity and Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity to fund a £4 million programme of work, across three of the UK’s leading paediatric neuro-oncology centres, to take forward research into some of the deadliest brain tumours and improve outcomes for young patients.

Amount of grant: £980,946 | Date of award: December 2013

Overview

Brain tumours are the leading cause of childhood cancer death.

Advances in the treatment of the most common childhood brain tumour, medulloblastoma, have plateaued and current treatments fail in around a third of young patients. Although less common, high-grade gliomas and diffuse intrinsic pontine gliomas are associated with extremely poor outcomes and account for equivalent numbers of deaths to medulloblastoma. Other, rarer groups of tumours are commonly fatal.

The children who survive brain tumours are often left with severe, life-limiting disabilities as a result of the tumour and the aggressive treatments used to save their life.

New treatments are desperately needed.

The new INSTINCT programme integrates research programmes at three of the UK’s leading paediatric brain tumour research centres – the Northern Institute for Cancer Research at Newcastle University, the UCL Institute of Child Health and the Institute of Cancer Research.

The collaboration provides the common infrastructure necessary to take forward vital research into the biological basis of brain tumour development and to use this information to develop new therapies and improve outcomes for children with brain tumours.

About the research team

The Northern Institute for Cancer Research, UCL Institute of Child Health and the Institute of Cancer Research play leading international roles in childhood brain tumour research and the clinical application of these findings. Unifying their research programmes offers a major opportunity to create a concerted network for the promotion, research and clinical advancement of childhood brain tumours.

Professor Steven Clifford, Professor of Molecular Paediatric Oncology at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research, is the overall lead for the INSTINCT programme. Professor Clifford is the Leader of the Paediatric Brain Tumour Research Group in Newcastle and the Chair of Newcastle Children’s Cancer Research Group.

The Lead at the UCL Institute of Child Health (ICH) is Dr Darren Hargrave, a Consultant Paediatric Oncologist in Neuro-oncology and Experimental Therapeutics at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Dr Chris Jones, Reader in Translational Genomics at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), leads the ICR contribution.

What difference will this project make?

Brain tumours are the leading cause of childhood cancer death. There is a desperate need for new therapies.

By combining the expertise of leading scientists and clinicians from across the three research centres, the INSTINCT programme aims to bridge the gap between biological discovery and clinical practice – taking new findings from the lab to the hospital wards. By creating a unified network of research and clinical excellence the team will accelerate progress in the treatment of these tumours. Ultimately this will drive up survival and, crucially, quality of survival. 

Read more: About childhood brain tumours | Other brain tumour research | Brain tumour initiative

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