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Research announcement: four new projects funded

Clockwise from top left: Dr Anna Andreou, Mr Richard Mair, Dr Zahraa Al-Ahmady & Dr Dirk Sieger

We are delighted to share details of four exciting new research projects, recently funded thanks to the efforts of our amazing supporters!

Each of these four projects has been selected on the basis that it will make an important contribution to knowledge in one of our key priority areas and, crucially, that the applicant has demonstrated how this knowledge will translate through to real benefit for patients.

How do we decide which research to fund?

We are currently focused on three priority disease areas: brain tumours, brain and spinal cord injury, and headache and facial pain. These are areas where we have identified a large unmet need amongst patients, coupled with a lack of research investment.

We issue an open call for research proposals in these areas. Submitted proposals then undergo a two-stage assessment process, involving the scrutiny of the members of our Scientific Advisory Panel as well as external expert reviewers.  

Guided by the reports from external reviewers, our Panel members aim to identify the projects that offer the very best chance of progress in their respective field. The four projects outlined below, selected from 69 applications originally received, all come very highly recommended by the Panel. We will follow their progress closely.

Mr Richard Mair, University of Cambridge: Blocking progression from low-grade to high-grade glioma  

Low-grade glioma is a rare brain tumour that predominantly affects teenagers and young adults. There is no cure and all patients ultimately progress to high-grade glioma, at which point their prognosis is around two years.

Neurosurgeon Richard Mair and colleagues at the University of Cambridge are working to find a way to block the low-grade to high-grade progression, and therefore improve prognosis in this young patient group. Read more.

Dr Dirk Sieger, University of Edinburgh: How do brain tumours persuade immune cells to promote their growth?

Dr Dirk Sieger and colleagues at the University of Edinburgh are focused on glioblastoma, the most common primary brain cancer in adults. Glioblastoma is an incurable cancer, with most patients surviving just 12 to 15 months from diagnosis.

Dr Sieger is studying the behaviour of immune cells of the brain, called microglia. Rather than fighting the brain tumours, the microglia actively promote their growth. Understanding what drives this disastrous behaviour is a step towards the development of treatments that could inhibit the anti-tumour to pro-tumour transformation of microglia. Read more.

Dr Anna Andreou, King’s College London: Understanding the role of inflammation in cluster headache

Cluster headache is a rare and debilitating headache disorder, described as one of the most painful conditions known to man. The causes and mechanisms of this disorder are not understood, limiting the development of effective treatments.

Dr Anna Andreou and colleagues are studying the role of inflammatory and immune reactions in an area of the brain called the hypothalamus, which is thought to be involved in active headache disorders and attacks. We hope that this will accelerate the development of new treatment approaches. Read more.

Dr Zahraa Al-Ahmady, Nottingham Trent University:  Blocking blood-induced brain damage after brain haemorrhage

More than 40% of patients suffering a brain haemorrhage die within one month, and those who survive usually have poor recovery.

Dr Zahraa Al-Ahmady and colleagues are focusing on the damage caused by the sudden presence of iron in the brain, resulting from the leaked blood. There are no effective treatments to counteract this accumulation of iron. The team will test ways of administering drugs called iron chelators directly to the site of the haemorrhage. An effective mechanism for delivery of these drugs would be an important step towards development of an effective treatment to combat this problem and reduce the risk of brain damage. Read more.

Amazing supporters

The money to fund these new projects – a total of £1.1 million – has been raised by our amazing supporters, the majority of whom have very personal reasons for fundraising. Without their extraordinary efforts, we simply would not be able to fund this vital research.

Every year we receive far more high quality research applications than we can fund. Find out how you can help us fund more research to accelerate progress – from making a donation to running a marathon!