Scottish scientists are set to take part in groundbreaking research to help develop new brain tumour treatments and better understand the final stages of cancer.
Experts in Edinburgh will receive a major cash boost for research into tackling brain tumours, while researchers in Glasgow will be collaborating with scientists in England and Northern Ireland in a UK-wide initiative to expand the first national post-mortem cancer study.
The research in both cities is being funded as part of a £16 million UK-wide initiative – Cancer Research UK’s Centres’ Network Accelerator Awards – to help speed up progress being made in the fight against cancers which are difficult to treat.
Scientists from the Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre will receive £3.7 million over the next five years.
Edinburgh is one of just four leading research centres to secure a significant cash injection for its cutting-edge research into tackling brain tumours.
The funding will support scientists who will take samples from patients’ tumours during surgery and then grow these brain tumour cells in the lab to study the faulty molecules that underpin the disease. This will help them discover better ways to treat and diagnose brain tumours, which still have poor survival rates.
Dr Steve Pollard is the lead scientist for the study which could help to save the lives of more people with brain tumours in the city – and across the UK – in the future.
He said: “We’re delighted to have been awarded this grant from Cancer Research UK to help further our understanding of brain tumours.
“Whilst survival for many types of cancer has improved dramatically over the last 40 years, tackling brain tumours remains a real challenge and they take the lives of far too many people each year.
“The vital investment in this study is crucial to help us understand the biology of brain tumours and find new and better ways to treat them.
“We are committed to improving the outlook for people with brain tumours and their loved ones and hope to ensure more people survive this devastating disease.”
Meanwhile, researchers from the Cancer Research UK Glasgow Centre will be collaborating with scientists across the UK, following the announcement today of the charity’s Centres’ Network Accelerator Awards.
Designed to inspire new approaches to beating cancer, the awards will invest around £4 million over five years in a UK-wide initiative to expand the first national post-mortem cancer study.
Doctors will invite terminally ill patients – most of whom are taking part in clinical trials – to donate samples of their cancer after their death. They will be asked to discuss the issue with their families, before deciding to be part of this pioneering research.
It aims to understand how cancer changes and evolves in advanced stages of the disease to help develop better treatments for cancer that has spread.
Researchers in Glasgow will join forces with scientists from Leicester, Belfast, Cambridge, Manchester and London to roll out the study collecting blood and tissue samples from patients who have died from cancer.
This work will be vital for understanding the evolution and final stages of the disease and the genetics of certain tumours that are hard for doctors to take samples from when patients are alive, like brain tumours.
Scientists will be able to study how tumours develop and spread in advanced cancer, how and why tumours become resistant to treatment and how the body reacts to the disease during the final stages, as well as looking at potential ways to boost the immune system to fight cancer.
Iain McNeish and Andrew Biankin are the lead researchers at the Cancer Research UK Glasgow Centre.
Professor McNeish said: “We’re delighted to be a part of this grant from Cancer Research UK. It will help to further our understanding of cancer and give patients the choice to contribute to research after their death.
“The vital investment in this study will help us complete the whole cancer picture – from diagnosis to end of life – which we need to understand how the disease changes and evolves over time. It’s these changes which make the cancer difficult to treat because it can stop responding to treatment.
“We are so incredibly thankful to the patients who have agreed to take part. With their help we can do research that will help more people survive this devastating disease.”
Cancer Research UK’s Centres’ Network Accelerator Awards aim to encourage collaboration between research centres across the UK to inspire new approaches to beating cancer and help turn discoveries made in the lab into better treatments for patients faster.
Dr Iain Foulkes, executive director for research funding at Cancer Research UK, said: “We’re excited to be investing in collaborative and innovative research in Glasgow and across the UK. It’s by working together and uniting expertise that we will accelerate cutting-edge research and save more lives.”