Brain tumours account for a quarter of childhood cancer diagnoses and more than a third of childhood cancer deaths.
Childhood brain tumours are treated aggressively to give each child the very best chance of survival. But survival comes at a cost, and many young patients are left with devastating long-term and late effects that severely impact on their future health and wellbeing.
Despite the devastating effects of brain tumours, they have not attracted the same level of research investment as research into some other childhood cancers. To counter this, in 2014, we launched our three year Brain Tumour Initiative, with a pledge to invest at least £3m in new brain tumour research over this period.
In March 2015, we awarded the first major project grants under this call, at a total cost of £1.81m. An important feature of the four funded projects is that they are highly collaborative, with researchers working together to share samples, data and expertise for maximum progress.
Read more: Stories of children with brain tumours
BIOmarkers of Ependymomas in Children and Adolescents
Professor Richard Grundy, Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre, University of Nottingham
Ependymoma is a devastating brain tumour that kills up to 40 per cent of young patients, with little improvement over recent years. BIOmarkers of Ependymomas in Children and Adolescents (BIOMECA) is a unique partnership between leading European ependymoma specialists who are now collecting tumour samples from young patients being treated under the international ependymoma clinical trial. They are aiming to develop new risk categories and work towards the future personalisation of therapy.
Read more: BIOmarkers of Ependymomas in Children and Adolescents
Diagnosing childhood medulloblastomas by improved MRI scans
Professor Andrew Peet, University of Birmingham
Medulloblastomas are the most common childhood malignant brain tumours and only around 60 per cent of young patients survive. Different medulloblastoma subtypes respond differently to treatment and rapid diagnosis is essential to aid treatment planning. Professor Peet is working with colleagues from other UK centres to develop a new tool to allow rapid, non-invasive diagnosis that can inform critical initial treatment decisions.
Read more: Diagnosing childhood medulloblastomas by improved MRI scans
Understanding the genetics of paediatric glioblastoma
Dr Steven Pollard, University of Edinburgh
Paediatric glioblastoma is a devastating brain tumour that less than 20 per cent of young patients survive. This collaborative project brings together research teams from the UK, Canada and Sweden to define the role of a recently discovered genetic mutation in paediatric glioblastoma and determine whether it represents a possible target for a new therapeutic approach. The team will also create new cellular models of the disease for on-going drug-discovery efforts.
Read more: Understanding the genetics of paediatric glioblastoma
New tools to improve treatment and care in paediatric craniopharyngioma
Dr Juan Pedro Martinez-Barbera, UCL Institute of Child Health
Paediatric craniopharyngioma is a brain tumour that has high survival but can leave survivors with very poor quality of life. New, targeted treatments are urgently needed but progress is hampered by our poor understanding of the biology of these tumours. This collaborative project brings together teams from the UK and Germany to help profile these tumours and work towards the development of improved treatments.
Read more: New tools to improve treatment and care in paediatric craniopharyngioma