Febe Ferro was awarded the Daphne Merrills Studentship in March 2023, as a partnership between Brain Research UK and the Neurosciences Foundation.
Focused on the brain tumour glioblastoma, Febe is working with Dr Sourav Banerjee, in his lab at the University of Dundee.
Since completion of her Masters in 2020, Febe has worked on a range of projects that have provided the tools and experience to underpin her PhD research, which focuses on the role of a specific enzyme in the growth and proliferation of glioblastoma.
Tragically, Daphne Merrills lost both her husband, Austin, and her younger daughter, Victoria, to glioblastoma.
Daphne made a substantial donation to the Neurosciences Foundation to support research in the field, and we were pleased to partner with them to fund this studentship.
Sadly Daphne died in May 2022, aged 93, before this award could be made. We are proud to name the studentship in her memory.
Glioblastoma is the most common primary brain cancer in adults, with around 2,500 cases diagnosed each year in the UK.
It is a grade 4 tumour, meaning that it grows and spreads quickly. It infiltrates the brain, wrapping finger-like tentacles around vital brain structure, making complete surgical removal impossible.
The current treatment strategy includes surgery to involve as much tumour as possible, followed by radiotherapy and chemotherapy to target the remaining tumour. This prolongs survival but is not curative, and only a quarter of patients survive more than a year from diagnosis. The need for new treatments is urgent.
A protein called Fam20C, which is a type of enzyme, has been shown to be remarkably elevated in glioma tumours.
Glioma tumours lacking this enzyme do not grow well in mouse brain; its absence significantly extends survival. This suggests that Fam20C is important for tumour growth, and that blocking its effects could be a way to inhibit growth.
Febe will investigate Fam20C in more detail, to understand its effects on the different cell types that make up the tumour, and fully understand its role in glioblastoma growth and development. This could open the way to the development of therapies that target these processes.
Glioblastoma is an incurable cancer. Currently available drugs can prolong survival, in combination with surgery and radiotherapy, but the cancer inevitably returns.
By understanding the role of Fam20C in the development and proliferation of glioblastoma, Febe hopes to open up a potential new treatment approach.
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 affected by brain cancer.
Febe already has a wealth of experience in the research tools and techniques that will be required for delivery of this ambitious project, having been working as a research technician and assistant at the University of Dundee since completion of her Masters degree in 2020. She feels ready to apply her knowledge and skill to focus on this specific problem and carry out self-directed research, and Dr Banerjee's lab is the ideal environment for her to continue her training.
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: