Astrocytes, the Covid vaccine and the 2021 classification

3 min read

Researchers at Tel Aviv University have reported that they ‘effectively eradicated glioblastoma’ using a method based on their discovery of two critical mechanisms in the brain that support tumour growth and survival: one protects cancer cells from the immune system, while the other supplies the energy required for rapid tumour growth. The work found that both mechanisms are controlled by brain cells called astrocytes, and in their absence, the tumour cells die and are eliminated. 

A paper detailing this work was published in the scientific journal Brain 

Researchers at University College London (UCL) and Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) have been awarded a £1.2 million grant from Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity (GOSH Charity) to develop a new treatment for an aggressive type of brain tumour, diffuse midline glioma (DMG), until recently known as diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG). They will be using a patient’s own immune system to attack the cancer cells. 

The team will use CAR T-cells (patient immune cells engineered to recognise and eradicate cancer cells) in a clinical study for up to 12 patients with DMG at GOSH. 

With results from a study at Stanford University in the USA already showing promise of CAR T-cell therapy in DMG, it is hoped that this clinical trial at GOSH will be a crucial first step in developing effective CAR T-cell treatments for DMG and other high-risk brain tumours that can be devastating to families. 

A New Human Fetal Brain Atlas Decodes the Origin and Formation of Brain Cancer. Medulloblastomas are classified into four major subgroups. Three main groups originate from the cerebellum, and one is from the dorsal brainstem’s lower rhombic lip. In this research, rodent models have been used to help understand the origins of cerebellar tumorigenesis. An analysis of their molecular, cellular, and histological models has aided research in studying brain tumours and this could help scientists plan for better outcomes. 

Recent research has uncovered a unique metabolic vulnerability in the sphingolipid pathways of gliomas that possess the IDH1 mutation. Sphingolipids are a family of lipid signalling molecules that play a variety of second messenger functions in cellular regulation. The two primary metabolites, sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) and ceramide, maintain a rheostat balance and play opposing roles in cell survival and proliferation. Altering the rheostat such that the pro-apoptotic signalling of the ceramides outweighs the pro-survival S1P signalling in glioma cells diminishes the hallmarks of cancer and enhances tumour cell death. This review discusses the sphingolipid pathway to identify the enzymes that can be most effectively targeted to alter the sphingolipid rheostat and enhance apoptosis in gliomas.  

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published the fifth edition of the Classification of Tumors of the Central Nervous System (CNS). This 2021 update introduces major improvements that will have an important influence on clinical care and research of brain tumours, especially diffuse gliomas. It will provide clinicians with more accurate guidance on prognosis and optimal therapy for patients and ensure that more homogenous patient populations are enrolled in clinical trials, potentially facilitating the development of more effective therapies.  

This is paid for content and offers a review of the mechanisms of T cell–microglia interactions and discusses a collaboration fostering heterogeneity and immunosuppression in brain cancers.  


A new comprehensive statistical report on childhood and adolescent brain tumours ages 0-19 years has been published. The Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States (CBTRUS) Statistical Report: ‘Paediatric Brain Tumour Foundation Childhood and Adolescent Primary Brain and Other Central Nervous System Tumors Diagnosed in the United States in 2014–2018’ comprehensively describes the current population-based incidence of primary malignant and non-malignant brain and other CNS tumours in children and adolescents ages 0–19 years, collected and reported by central cancer registries covering approximately 100% of the United States population. 

Brain tumour patients and COVID-19 vaccines: results of an international survey. A total of 965 unique surveys were completed from 42 countries of an anonymous 31-question online survey conducted in the summer of 2021. The survey was open to adult brain tumour patients over the age of 18. The purpose of this study was to determine if brain tumour patients and their caregivers have received a COVID-19 vaccine and explore their thoughts and opinions on these vaccines. 


There is an opportunity to join Professor Oliver Hanemann at our University of Plymouth research Centre as a research focused lecturer meanwhile Kings College London are looking for an enthusiastic Postdoctoral Research Associate to lead a project on ultrasound-mediated paediatric brain tumour treatment using drug-loaded thermosensitive liposomes.  

New Believe Magazine out now – if the clinicians amongst you would like to have the opportunity to have the Believe Magazine (full of fundraising/campaigning/research news) available to view in public spaces at your clinics please let me know and we will send a box over to you. 

Finally this week why not make the most of the Autumn weather and join us for our national Walk of Hope which is taking place on Saturday 24th September. This year, we want to make it our biggest Walk of Hope yet and we need your help. We’re hosting official Brain Tumour Research walks in  Hamilton Leicester,   Leeds Luton,   New Forest,   Oxfordshire Pershore Stockport, and   Stoke Hammond. You can join these or take part in your own walk – the main thing is that it’s time to step forward towards a cure, together

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