Brain tumour research
Approximately 9,000 patients in the UK develop primary brain cancer, but there are many more who develop secondary cancer within the brain from different primary sites around the body (such as breast and lung).
The brain tumour unit at North Bristol Trust treats over 400 cases of primary brain and spinal cord tumours per year. Brain cancer affects both adults and children, and in children it is the second highest cause of death after accidents. One of the major problems with primary brain cancer is that it invades the brain widely as single cells and therefore can be difficult to completely remove by surgery. It also can develop resistance to traditional chemotherapy and therefore tumour relapse is common. Future developments of brain cancer will involve fully understanding each individual’s tumour according to what is driving the abnormal growth of that specific tumour. Then surgery and a range of therapies can be tailored to the individual, providing a personalised medicine approach
Dr Kathreena Kurian, Consultant Neuropathologist, talks about her vision for being a centre of excellence for predicting brain tumours in patients.
My name is Katherine Kurian, I'm a Consultant Neuropathologist, so that means for a living I diagnose brain tumours. The problem in this country is clear we have nine thousand adults with a tumour starting within the brain and about 1,500 children. And the problem is after five years only 20% of those patients are alive, so we need to do better for these patients. The other thing is that now patients are surviving tumours from elsewhere in the body, so breast and lung tumours for example which are travelling to the brain which is obviously devastating. So Bristol is a huge centre for treating brain tumour patients, we have neurosurgeons here, we have academics and our ambition is to have the Bristol Brain Cancer Centre of excellence, which I will lead. We have a research group here and the main focus is to find out why you have a brain tumour in the first place. At the moment why you get a brain tumour is not very well known, there aren't any good risk factors a part of you've had previous radiotherapy or in very rare genetic cases. So we need to find out why you have one in the first place so we can try and prevent it. The other thing I know is that when I diagnose two patients, give them the same diagnosis, they can behave very very differently with the treatments that we give them. So what we want to understand is how one patient's tumour is different from another and can we personalise the therapies for these patients. Because at the moment if you have a brain tumour, we take it out using neurosurgery and then we give you chemo radiotherapy, which is obviously very difficult to take. And what happens is although the chemoradiotherapy kills most of the tumour cells it leaves some cells behind and what normally happens is this tumour regrows, that's what happens to practically all of our patients. Now there is a new generation of targeted inhibitors which can be specific to an individual tumour so what we want to do is match an individual patient with a targeted therapy, so so-called personalised medicine and that's our aim for brain tumours and I'm sure it will revolutionise the outcome for this group of patients who at the moment have a very poor outcome.
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