New hope in bid to treat brain tumours

SHEFFIELD researchers hope to uncover a new way of treating brain tumours which affect more than 16,000 people every year in the UK.

Drawing on previously published research carried out in the US, the University of Sheffield scientists plan to use inhibitor agents to switch off a specific DNA repair mechanism in brain tumour cells in the hope that they can increase the effectiveness of current chemotherapy drugs.

Previous research has shown that brain tumour cells which are naturally or artificially manipulated to be defective in this particular DNA repair mechanism, known as the Fanconi Anaemia pathway, are far more sensitive to the cell killing effects of certain chemotherapy agents.

The Sheffield scientists, funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, want to take this research further and synthetically stop the Fanconi Anaemia pathway in brain tumour cells from working altogether in order to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs and consequently force more tumour cells to die.

Ultimately the scientists want to kick-start the long process of developing a potential therapeutic drug to treat brain tumours which are responsible for the deaths of more people under the age of 40 than any other form of cancer.

Molecular Biologist Dr Spencer Collis, who is leading the research alongside his colleague Consultant Neurosurgeon Thomas Carroll, said: “Recent research has shown that brain tumour cells that have a defective Fanconi Anaemia pathway, which is important for the efficient repair of certain types of DNA damage, are far more sensitive to the cell killing effects of chemotherapy.

“We are confident we can take that research further and hopefully come up with a therapeutic agent we can progress towards developing a potential new drug.

“Brain cancer is a really devastating disease that can occur at any age, yet current treatment strategies remain insufficient and tumours often recur.’’