Scientists from Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry have been awarded a grant from young person's cancer charity The Laura Crane Youth Cancer Trust to investigate a new drug-based treatment for a multi-tumour brain and nervous system cancer which affects teenagers and young adults.
The research team will work with a condition called neurofibromatosis, in particular an hereditary version called NF2.
One in 25,000 people worldwide is affected NF2, a condition where the loss of a tumour suppressor called Merlin results in multiple tumours in the brain and nervous system.
Sufferers may experience 20 to 30 tumours at any one time and such numbers often lead to hearing loss, disability and eventually death. Additional symptoms include facial pain and paralysis, numbness, speech problems, difficulty in swallowing and childhood cataracts. Many of those with NF2 develop symptoms in childhood or early adolescence, reducing their average life expectancy to just 40 years.
Currently, the only available effective therapies are repeated invasive surgery or radiotherapy aimed at one tumour at a time and which are unlikely to eradicate all the tumours in one go. NF2 can affect any family, regardless of past history, through gene mutation. There is no cure.
The research team will use non-animal methods to investigate how a cell in the brain or nervous system becomes NF2 and, with an understanding of the mechanism, look at how existing drugs can be repurposed to treat the condition and prevent multi-drug resistance.
The research will take place over two years.
The study is led by Dr. Sylwia Ammoun, Senior Research Fellow in Clinical Neurobiology at the Institute for Translational and Stratified Medicine, Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. She said: "NF2 is a devastating condition which affects young people, giving them life-debilitating symptoms and the prospect of shorter than average life expectancy. It is important for scientists to address the condition so that those who suffer from it have valid and effective treatment options. We are grateful to The Laura Crane Youth Cancer Trust for this opportunity to move closer to identifying those options."
Pam Thornes, Trust Manager at the Laura Crane Youth Cancer Trust, said: "The Laura Crane Youth Cancer Trust is committed to funding vital research into cancer in young people and this is brilliantly reflected through the work of Dr Ammoun and her team. The trust is proud to be a part of such pioneering research that will investigate a new drug-based treatment for a multi-tumour brain and nervous system cancer that can offer effective treatment options for these young people."