Danielle Marsh was inspired to pursue further research into brain tumours during completion of an MSc in Biomedical Science, when she was involved in the development of advanced models for the study of tumours such as glioblastoma. The award of a Brain Research UK PhD studentship is enabling her to pursue this ambition.
Having worked as a Trainee Biomedical Scientist in the NHS, Danielle already has a high level of technical competence in the methodologies that she will need to successfully execute her research.
Glioblastoma is the most common primary brain cancer in adults, with around 2,500 cases diagnosed every year in the UK.
Glioblastoma is a grade 4 tumour, meaning that it grows and spreads quickly. It infiltrates the brain, wrapping finger-like tentacles around vital brain structures, making complete surgical removal impossible.
The current treatment strategy includes surgery to remove as much tumour as possible, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy to destroy remaining tumour. This prolongs survival but is not curative. Only a quarter of patients survive more than a year from diagnosis.
The need for new treatments is urgent.
Epigenetics is a biological process that controls the way our genes behave by turning them on and off. In healthy cells, epigenetics is tightly controlled. In cancerous cells, however, the epigenetic control is faulty and can lead to uncontrolled cell growth.
Danielle is studying a protein called CBX2, which is known to be involved in epigenetic control, and which is found at higher levels in glioblastoma than in healthy brain tissue. CBX2 has a demonstrated role in other cancers, but has not been studied extensively in glioblastoma.
Danielle’s aim is to determine whether CBX2 is necessary for glioblastoma growth and could therefore be a therapeutic target, through which cell growth could be brought under control.
To do this, she will use human glioblastoma cells and tumour tissue, which can be kept alive in the lab for up to 10 days, and deplete the level of CBX2 protein. She will then measure the effect on cancer growth, gene expression, and CBX2 function.
Understanding the effects of inhibiting CBX2 in this way will help determine whether it represents a genuine therapeutic target in glioblastoma.
Understanding the role of CBX2 in glioblastoma may provide an important new insight to this devastating disease, and offer a new avenue for the development of effective treatments.
As well as advancing knowledge about glioblastoma, through this studentship we are supporting the career development of a committed biomedical scientist, determined to improve the outlook for those diagnosed with glioblastoma.
Brain tumours are one of our current research priorities, reflecting the large unmet need in this area. Our aim is to fund research to advance understanding of the causes and underlying mechanisms of brain tumours, and help us to diagnose and treat them more effectively.
Other research projects currently funded under this theme:
Find out about our other research in this area: