New drug discovery platform for meningioma tumours

2 min read

The team at the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at the University of Plymouth has published a game-changing project which could improve the success of future clinical trials for the most common low-grade brain tumour affecting adults.  

Researchers at our Plymouth Centre have developed a new technique to grow meningioma tumour cells in the laboratory, providing an improved platform for drug discovery and testing which may increase the success of future clinical trials.     

Meningiomas account for approximately 36% of all primary brain tumours, and 75% are classified as World Health Organization (WHO) grade 1. Most meningiomas are successfully treated by surgery and/or radiotherapy, but this treatment can result in significant side effects and radiation damage to the brain. There are currently no approved chemotherapy options for meningioma patients which could spare them this invasive and risky surgery.  

How does growing cells in the laboratory help meningioma patients?

Research groups around the world, including our Plymouth team, are investigating new and repurposed medicines to tackle meningioma tumours without surgery. For these drugs to progress from preclinical testing into early phase clinical trials, researchers must first demonstrate that they work in laboratory models and are safe for healthy tissue. To do so, they require laboratory models which resemble the disease being investigated as closely as possible.  

Professor Oliver Hanemann, Director of our Plymouth Research Centre, and his research team, have developed a new 3D meningioma cell culture model that not only more accurately depicts the 3D nature of meningioma tumours in the brain, but also mimics the similar features demonstrated by invasive and treatment-resistant meningiomas. It’s exciting as this model provides a more robust drug testing platform for this type of tumour.  

Published in Acta Neuropathologica Communications, the new model is derived from patient meningioma cells. It was shown to resemble the molecular and morphological features of the parent tissue, as well as the immune microenvironment - something current models cannot accurately do.   

Employing this model for future drug development experiments will improve accuracy of preclinical test results, reduce the failure rates of clinical trials, and ultimately improve patient outcomes.    


van de Weijer, L.L., Ercolano, E., Zhang, T. et al. A novel patient-derived meningioma spheroid model as a tool to study and treat epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in meningiomas. acta neuropathol commun 11, 198 (2023).  

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