Despite advances in our treatments for many types of cancer, the survival rate for children affected by tumours like paediatric glioblastoma (pGBM) and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) remains low, and we urgently need new treatments.

One of the major challenges with these highly aggressive cancers is tumour invasion and, although we now understand a lot more about the biology of the disease, we still have no effective treatment. These tumours tend to be very varied, and to respond differently, making it hard to find effective ways to treat them.

In her previous research, in the lab of Professor Chris Jones at the Institute of Cancer Research, Dr Maria Vinci (pictured below) has studied the intratumour heterogeneity of pGBM and DIPG, their complex architecture, developing her understanding of how they grow and spread early in their development.

In this important project, she will analyse the mechanisms by which pGBM/DIPG cells migrate and invade,identify the key factors that affect these processes, and combine advanced imaging and proteomic analysis coupled to specific drug screens to identify new ways to target pGBM/DIPG migration/invasion.

Project Details

  • Project Title

    The role of interclonal communication and the tumour microenvironment in driving paediatric GBM and DIPG migration and invasion

  • Lead Researcher

    Dr Maria Vinci

  • Research Centre

    Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital – IRCCS

  • City & Institution Postcode


  • Start Date

    1 September 2017

  • Duration

    60 months

  • Grant Amount



Children with Cancer UK is helping to fund research on how tumour cells in paediatric glioblastoma (pGBM) and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma behave and interact with each other and normal brain cells, with the aim of finding more effective strategies to treat them.

Potential impact

By developing our understanding of how tumour cells communicate with each other as well as adapt and react to the microenvironment, Dr Vinci believes she may be able to identify key molecular processes guiding tumour cell migration and invasion which could lead to potential new treatment strategies to inhibit pGBM and DIPG to develop and spread. This would represent an important step forward in finding effective treatments for children affected by these aggressive and devastating cancers.

About the research team

Dr Vinci is a Principal Investigator at the Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital, which is a Paediatric Scientific Institute for Research and Health Care performing basic, translational and clinical research activities. Dr Vinci has extensive experience in the establishment of pGBM and DIPG patient primary-derived tumour models in vitro (2D and 3D) and in vivo, strong experience in the molecular cell biology of cancer, and has developed new high-content image-analysis techniques. Her research is hosted in the Department of Haemato-oncology, Gene and Cell Therapy, and in the Onco-haematology Research Laboratory, both directed by Professor Franco Locatelli. The Department plays an active role in the experimental activities and protocols managed by the eagis of the European Consortium ITCC (Innovative Treatment for Children with Cancer), promoting and coordinating numerous phase I, II and III studies. The lab will provide access to infrastructures needed, and more importantly will enable a daily exchange with the clinicians including neuro-oncologists, radiologist, neurosurgeons and pathologist. For this project she has the support from collaborators in the field of paediatric brain tumour research as Professor Chris Jones (The Institute of Cancer Research, UK), Dr Angel Montero Carcaboso (Hospital San Jean de Deu, Spain) and Dr Andrew Moore (Queensland Children’s Tumour Bank, Australia) as well as other scientists in Italy and in the UK.
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