‘Super sponge’ could transform GBM treatment

1 min read

Brain Tumour Research is delighted to announce it is working in partnership with the Medical Research Council (MRC) to fund ground-breaking research at Cardiff University, Wales.   

A project award of £500,000 will see Dr Ben Newland at the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Cardiff University, Wales, and colleagues from universities throughout the UK, working to develop an innovative surgically-implanted, drug-delivery system which represents a “paradigm shift” in treatment for glioblastoma (GBM) patients. 

The grant is our first partnership with the MRC, and the charity's first major investment in Wales. It is part of a £2 million cash injection announced this week by Michelle Donelan, Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology. Dr Newland's project and another focusing on brain tumours represent two of four grants awarded following an MRC sandpit event where academic experts got together to design innovative new projects to address cancers of unmet need.   

Under Dr Newland’s leadership, the team, which comprises researchers from the Universities of Nottingham, Birmingham, Sheffield and King’s College London, will be designing a unique sponge-like material to be inserted into the space left behind following surgery to remove GBM tumours. The material will then deliver combinations of repurposed cancer therapeutics that would not otherwise be able to pass the blood-brain barrier. This novel technique will not only reduce off-target side effects of cancer drugs but will also get effective treatments to the tumour cells that are left behind after surgery which go on to cause recurrence of the disease.    

As a part of the project design, Dr Newland will also screen thousands of potential drugs to find those most suited for the delivery system and those that cause the most harm to GBM cells, but least harm to the brain.   

He said: “This project marks the start of our journey towards a paradigm shift in brain cancer treatment. By creating a new delivery system, we aim to tap into the multitude of existing drugs and unlock their potential to thwart brain tumours. Our team draws together a range of expertise, and we are very excited to undertake this challenge to improve the outcomes for brain tumour patients.”  

Dr Karen Noble, Director of Research, Policy and Innovation said: “We are delighted to be able to support the pioneering work of Dr Newland and his team. We share his excitement on undertaking this challenge, which is our first such partnership with the MRC and the charity’s first major investment in Wales. 

“Developing a way to deliver therapeutics intraoperatively presents a remarkable opportunity to progress care for brain tumour patients and potentially reduce the incidence of tumour recurrence.    

“Brain tumour patients have waited too long for an improvement in treatment options, and we are very excited by this research into novel drug delivery as it is the route to improving the dreadful statistics associated with this devastating disease.” 

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