11:59pm Monday 13 July 2020

Brain tumours targeted by new study

The team, based at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research, will use cutting-edge screening techniques as part of the £4m study to identify critical genetic and biochemical features of aggressive brain tumours in young patients.

By matching their laboratory findings to the progress of children with these tumours in the clinic, they hope to find out how such characteristics affect the way the tumours grow.

That information will be used to develop tailored treatments for different groups of youngsters, so that therapies which target specific tumour characteristics can be offered to those whose tumours are identified as the most dangerous.

Co-funded by a £2 million grant from The Brain Tumour Charity and Children with Cancer, the researchers hope the five-year project will eventually save lives as well as sparing  children with less deadly forms of tumour  the trauma of unnecessary and potentially damaging drug treatments.

Brain tumours

Newcastle team leader Professor Steven Clifford explains: “The benefits that we’re trying to bring to children with brain tumours are two-fold.

“Through understanding the biology of brain tumours in much more detail, we hope to be able to increase the cure rate for children with brain tumour.

“And for those children that survive their brain tumours, we also want to make sure that their quality of life is as good as it can be following their treatment.”

Newcastle is one of three UK centres that make up the INSTINCT network, created to further the understanding and treatment of aggressive childhood brain tumours.

INSTINCT, which also includes the University College London Institute of Child Health and the Institute of Cancer Research in London, brings together the work of leading scientists and clinicians in the field of high-risk paediatric brain tumour.

The aim is to ensure that brain tumour research studies translate as quickly and effectively as possible into new treatments.

Between them, the clinical centres working under the INSTINCT umbrella treat more than one in three young brain tumour patients in the UK.

“Funding for INSTINCT’s work is critical,” says Professor Clifford. “The money for this new programme will underpin our efforts for the next five years to allow us to make new biological discoveries and move those forward into the clinic.”

The £2 million grant from The Brain Tumour Charity and Children with Cancer has been matched by another £2 million from other sources, including Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity.


The Newcastle scientists on the newly-funded INSTINCT programme will focus on a type of fast-growing tumour known as medulloblastoma.

In another strand of the research, they will work with the Institute of Child Health to investigate the genetic differences between very rare tumours known as ATRT (atypical teratoid/rhabdoid tumours) and ETANTR (embryonal tumour with abundant neuropil and true rosettes).

And scientists at the Institute of Cancer Research will investigate the genetic differences between types of childhood brain tumour known as high-grade glioma (HGG) and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG).

The INSTINCT research project is part of an overall £10 million investment in UK brain tumour research, made possible thanks to £5 million in grants from the Brain Tumour Charity and £5 million matched funding from other sources.

Press release courtesy of The Brain Tumour Charity


Key Facts:

  • Newcastle University is a Russell Group University
  • We rank in the top 20 of UK universities in The Sunday Times 2013 University Guide
  • Amongst our peers Newcastle is:
    • 5th in the UK for graduates into jobs (HESA 2011-12)
    • 10th in the UK for student satisfaction
    • Ranked 8th in the UK for Medical research power
    • In the UK’s top 12 for research power in Science and Engineering
  • 95% of our students are in a job or further training within six months of graduating
  • We have a world-class reputation for research excellence and are spearheading three major societal challenges that have a significant impact on global society. These themes are: Ageing and Health, Sustainability, and Social Renewal
  • Newcastle University is the first UK university to establish a fully owned international branch campus for medicine at its NUMed Campus in Malaysia which opened in 2011
  • Our International students put Newcastle University in world’s top 12 (ISB 2011)

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