Hedgehogs, Excel and Anti-anxiety medication

4 min read


Microsoft fixes the Excel feature that was wrecking scientific data. A new setting in Excel gives users control over the automatic data conversion feature that forced scientists to rework symbols representing human genes.  In 2020, scientists decided just to rework the alphanumeric symbols they used to represent genes rather than try to deal with an Excel feature that was interpreting their names as dates and (un)helpfully reformatting them automatically. On the 20th October, a member of the Excel team posted that the company is rolling out an update on Windows and macOS to fix that. 

ICR one of founding institutions of new childhood cancer non-profit company. The Institute of Cancer Research is one of the founding members of a new not-for-profit company that will enable scientists across the world to test cancer drugs in cell and animal models of childhood cancers. The new company is called ITCC-P4 gGmbH, and is the first and only non-profit company in the world to offer access to laboratory models for systematic efficacy testing on fully-characterised paediatric tumour models.  Three ICR researchers are working closely with the new consortium, including Professor Chris Jones, Director of the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at The Institute of Cancer Research. 

Anti-anxiety drug can improve the effectiveness of chemo-radiotherapy towards glioblastoma. Cancers in the central nervous system resist therapies effective in other cancers, possibly due to the unique biochemistry of the human brain microenvironment composed of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). However, the impact of CSF on cancer cells and therapeutic efficacy is unknown. Published in Science Advances, this study examined the effect of human CSF on glioblastoma (GBM) tumours from 25 patients and found that CSF induces tumour cell plasticity and resistance to standard GBM treatments (temozolomide and irradiation). They went on to show that trifluoperazine, an anti-anxiety drug used since the 1950s, could re-sensitise glioblastoma cells to both therapies without harming healthy brain cells.  

Study Identifies Genetic Cause for Some Brain Tumours. Hedgehog (Hh) signalling mediates embryologic development of the central nervous system and other tissues and is frequently hijacked by neoplasia (abnormal growth) to facilitate uncontrolled cellular division. In this study, published in Nature Communications, researchers found that a subset of meningiomas exhibited structural variations — such as chromosomal breakage — that triggered upregulation in the hedgehog signalling pathway. The findings of the study offer a genetic explanation for a subset of meningiomas which did not previously have a well-defined cause. 

Interesting fact: The hedgehog signalling pathway was first identified in fruit flies and is named because flies lacking these genes were said to resemble hedgehogs. 


Sustained Survival Benefit in Recurrent Medulloblastoma by a Metronomic Antiangiogenic Regimen: A Nonrandomised Controlled Trial. The goal of this single-arm, phase 2 nonrandomised controlled trial was to determine the outcome a novel treatment regimen in paediatric patients with recurrent or refractory medulloblastoma. The regimen included regular treatment with low dose therapeutics that interfere with blood vessel formation, supplemented with other medications (an antiangiogenic metronomic combinatorial regimen). 

Of 40 patients with previously irradiated recurrent or refractory medulloblastoma, a response rate of 45% was achieved. Six patients achieved a complete response, 9 patients achieved a partial response, and 5 patients had stable disease. Published in JAMA Oncology, this feasible and well-tolerated combination regimen demonstrated promising activity in patients with previously irradiated recurrent medulloblastoma and warrants further evaluation. 


Two PhD studentships available at ICR funded by Brain Tumour Research.  Applications are now open for two PhD studentships funded by the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence Award at The Institute of Cancer Research, directed by Professor Chris Jones. Application deadline: 6th November 2023. 

Project titles:  

  • Transcription factor targeting in paediatric-type diffuse high-grade glioma (Chemistry) 
  • Photoimmunotherapy targeting of paediatric-type diffuse high-grade glioma (Biological Sciences)
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