Plymouth chosen as Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence

March 04, 2014

Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry will now become an active research and fundraising partner with Brain Tumour Research. The charity will support research and supply dedicated members of staff with expertise in fundraising, marketing and PR to work at both local and national levels alongside existing teams, creating a dynamic fundraising programme.

Plymouth is the leading centre in Europe for pioneering research into low-grade brain tumours, in particular, meningioma and ependymoma. The research team has a strong track record in brain tumour research, particularly in low-grade brain tumours occurring in teenagers and adults. Through this partnership with Brain Tumour Research, Professor Oliver Hanemann and team will focus on bench-to-bedside translational research. By identifying and understanding the mechanism that makes a cell become cancerous, he and his colleagues will explore ways in which to halt or reverse that mechanism.

Oliver and his team have previously identified new therapeutic targets and drug candidates for merlin deficient tumours, employing cell biology techniques and unique in vitro models for brain tumours. A key innovation is fast track: testing new drugs in human primary cell cultures leading to innovative phase 0 trials leading to adaptive phase II/III trials.

At present the only treatment options for people with such brain tumours are mainly invasive surgery or radiotherapy. By testing drugs in such a fast track way Oliver and his team achieve the potential for making drug therapies available to patients both safely and faster.

The collaboration is formally presented to MPs at a reception in Speaker's House today. The charity is also announcing additional partnerships with two other Centres - Queen Mary University of London in collaboration with UCL Institute of Neurology and Imperial College NHS Trust in London - paving the way for a £20 million investment in brain tumour research over the next five years. This is part of the charity's mission to establish seven Research Centres of Excellence across the UK, building a 'critical mass' of research teams and aiming to bring Britain to the forefront of brain tumour research.

The charity is no stranger to innovation where funding research is concerned, having already established the UK's first Centre of Excellence dedicated purely to scientific research into all types of brain tumour within the University of Portsmouth. Ongoing funding supplied by Brain Tumour Research and its member charities and fundraising groups sustains a long-term £1 million-a-year programme of research at this Centre. Indeed, since the launch in 2010, Brain Tumour Research has successfully built the UK's largest dedicated team of laboratory-based research scientists at the Centre, and it is this model team structure that will be used as 'proof of concept' in assembling the right expertise within the new Centres.

These new partnerships have come about after a robust selection process including the formation of a Scientific and Medical Advisory Board and completion of a series of stringent international peer reviews.

Professor Hanemann said: "It is fantastic to be partnering with Brain Tumour Research. A funding strategy to support low-grade tumours is so important in the challenge to understand this complex condition. Based on our existing track record, we will be able to build the world's most advanced bench-to-bedside translational medical research programme for low-grade brain tumours. Results from these genetically well-defined 'simple' brain tumours will also be invaluable for more genetically complex high-grade tumours, complementing research in other brain tumour centres."

Professor Wendy Purcell, Vice-Chancellor and President of Plymouth University, said: "This partnership is recognition of Plymouth's world-class expertise in brain tumour research and provides a platform for ongoing and sustained enquiry into this critical medical condition. We're delighted to be working in collaboration with Brain Tumour Research, and we're looking forward to putting into practice our distinctive bench-to-bedside approach."

With secure long-term funding covering the key salaried positions, researchers at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry will be freed from the limitations and frustrations of applying for one specific project grant after another in order to secure career opportunities, and instead will be able to pursue the sustainable and continuous research so desperately needed by the scientists and clinicians working in this underfunded field.

Promising scientists will be trained up through the ranks to fulfil their potential, rather than being tempted into other cancer research which currently attracts greater funding, and with it greater job security. As specialist brain tumour expertise and knowledge builds, those experienced researchers can then move between other Brain Tumour Research Centres to encourage cross-pollination of the very best thinking at the cutting-edge of brain tumour research.

Sue Farrington Smith, Chief Executive of Brain Tumour Research, said: "Today we are forming a powerful new network of researchers in order to accelerate progress in brain tumour research and make a clinical difference. The team at Plymouth University impressed us with their research track record and expertise and creativity in fundraising. It was clear we share a goal of creating a better future for all those diagnosed and living with a brain tumour. We are determined to do all we can to one day find a cure for this devastating disease."

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