Queen Mary University of London

The Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University of London is focused on increasing our understanding of glioblastoma tumours in adults, and finding new, kinder treatments for medulloblastoma and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) in children.

The Centre is located at the Blizard Institute at Queen Mary and its world-class research is led by Professor Silvia Marino, Professor of Neuropathology. She is also a consultant in diagnostic neuropathology and the current Vice-President of the British Neuropathology Society.

Glioblastoma tumours are the most common type of primary high-grade brain tumour in adults. They are very challenging to treat because of their complex and varied nature. The research team at the Centre is using an innovative platform to compare healthy cells with cancerous ones to find out what is driving a patient’s specific tumour to grow, and if it can be targeted by therapeutics – the first step in personalised treatments for glioblastoma patients.  

For children with medulloblastoma – the most common high-grade paediatric brain tumour – current treatments can cause life-long side effects. Researchers at the Centre are investigating a specific genetic difference that occurs in the tumour to develop novel, kinder therapeutics with fewer side effects for patients.

Glioblastoma research

  • How are glioblastoma cells different to normal cells?

    Researchers at the Centre have developed a new experimental platform, SYNGN, where they can compare the healthy brain stem cells with glioblastoma stem cells from the same patient.

    Historically, researchers compared glioblastoma stem cells with healthy brain stem cells to try and find differences that could be exploited. However the cells came from different people, making it difficult to know if any differences they identified were due to the cancer or because the cells were not from the same person.

    By comparing healthy and cancerous cells from the same person, researchers are provided with clear information on what is driving the patient’s tumour, allowing researchers to identify precise differences that are likely to play a role in glioblastoma growth and maintenance.

  • Can we make personlised treatments for glioblastoma?

    Using the information gleaned from the direct comparison between healthy brain stem cells and glioblastoma stem cells from the same person, the team is investigating whether they can target the vulnerabilities they find with new or repurposed therapeutics.

    In the future, researchers could use the SYNGN platform to compare cells for each patient, find targetable differences and then test drugs to see if they have an impact on tumour growth. The platform may be able to inform patients of the specific molecular and genetic information of their tumour, signposting the way to appropriate clinical trials.  

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How are mini-brains involved in glioblastoma research?

In the news: Breakthrough could see more tailored treatment for glioblastoma

A discovery from our Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University of London could improve treatments for patients diagnosed with the deadliest type of brain tumours.

The research team has identified a proportion of glioblastoma tumours which have unique features which could help inform tailored treatment choices for patients.

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Paediatric research

  • Finding kinder and more effective drugs for medulloblastoma

    Working with the most common type of medulloblastoma (group 4), Dr Sara Badodi and her team are looking to understand how a combination of deregulated proteins is linked with poorer prognosis, and find repurposed drugs to target this vulnerability.

    High levels of a protein called BMI1 are found in group four medulloblastoma patients, and when this is combined with low levels of another protein called CHD7 the prognosis is poor as the tumour regrows.

    Research conducted at the Centre has shown that these tumours are susceptible to a combination of existing drugs, which extended survival in models while also protecting the non-cancerous cells in the developing brain.

    They are continuing to explore this vulnerability to find new, kinder and more effective options for patients.

  • Finding new, targeted treatments for DIPG

    The research team is investigating whether the particular combination of deregulated proteins present in medulloblastoma are also found in DIPG tumours, and if they can be targeted to improve outcomes for children with DIPG.

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How are we targeting medulloblastoma?

What are we doing for DIPG?

In the news: Researchers make promising medulloblastoma breakthrough

Scientists at the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University of London have made a significant finding which could mean more effective treatment for children with group four medulloblastoma.

Research showed that those with a specific sub-type of medulloblastoma could benefit from a new combination of treatment. If further studies are positive, it could see children with this tumour subtype treated with a new combination of drugs which it is hoped would prove less harmful and lead to a better quality of life.

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Meet the research leads 

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