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Helping children with brain tumours beat the odds

 

PhD researcher Hannah Jackson

“The work I'm doing could actually save lives in the future and help children with brain tumours.” The words of PhD student researcher Hannah Jackson, whose research is directly benefitting from the £559,636 raised by supporters over the last year for our Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre (CBTRC).

With 10 children diagnosed with a brain tumour every week in the UK alone the CBTRC’s work is vital. The University’s Life Cycle 7 appeal has been the catalyst to fund research in order to speed up tumour diagnosis, unlock the complexities of brain tumours and accelerate progress in drug delivery.

Medulloblastoma

Hannah has been researching the most prevalent type of malignant brain tumour which affects children, known as Medulloblastoma, which accounts for 10% of all cancer-related deaths in children. Over one-third of patients diagnosed with Medulloblastoma have a metastatic tumour, meaning that the cancer cells have spread or “migrated away” from the initial tumour.

“I am extremely grateful and honoured to have received funding from donors to the CBTRC. I always wanted to work in cancer research doing something where I could make a difference. My hope for the future is to improve the outcomes for children with metastatic brain tumours, by early detection and identification of novel therapeutic targets.

“We think that metastatic cancer cells send ahead small packages called exosomes that work like a scouting party by travelling ahead of the cancer cells to find and prepare new sites for migratory cancer cells to settle. My aim is to isolate and characterise these exosomes.”

Despite the fact that overall survival rates have increased over the past 20 years, they have remained poor in patients with metastatic disease. This is why a better understanding of the biology of these tumours, particularly regarding the mechanisms of metastasis, is needed.

The role of the exosome

“Exosomes are ideal markers because they can be collected from the patient’s bodily fluids such as blood and cerebral spinal fluid. My research project is looking at the role of exosomes when Medulloblastoma cells metastasise to understand how these exosomes respond when targeted by chemotherapy.

“So far my research has shown that a greater number of exosomes are released by metastatic cells compared to non-metastatic suggesting that they may play a functional role in the migration process. This means that exosomes may also serve as novel therapeutic targets. The ability to better treat metastatic Medulloblastoma through exosomes targeted chemotherapy will enhance survival rates and quality of life for survivors.”

Thanks to our research, funded by generous donations from grateful patients, families, community supporters and alumni like you, 7 out of 10 children will now survive a brain tumour – more than ever before. Since the centre opened 20 years ago our experts have treated over 550 children directly and given hope to thousands more around the world. Yet brain tumours remain the biggest cancer-killer of children. Brain tumour research receives less than 1% of the UK's cancer research funding, which makes every penny you help us raise for the CBTRC incredibly valuable.

Posted on Friday 28th September 2018

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