Hitting cancer where it hurts: new ways to target childhood brain tumours
Institute of Cancer Research
15 Cotswold Road
About Chris Jones
Dr Chris Jones at The Institute of Cancer Research in Sutton is investigating the faulty molecules found in a type of childhood brain tumour called glioblastoma. His aim is to understand the changes in the cancer cells that drive the growth of these tumours, and to find new drugs to treat them, saving more children's lives.
The number of children surviving cancer has risen dramatically. Today around seven out of ten children with cancer will survive, compared to around three out of ten in the 1960s. But sadly there are still some types of childhood cancer that are difficult to treat – glioblastoma is one of these.
Finding the faults in cancer cells
To help tackle this problem, Dr Jones is studying hundreds of samples from children’s brain tumours to find key molecular ‘weaknesses’ that can be exploited by new drugs. He and his team are comparing samples from childhood and adult brain tumours because they suspect that there are important differences between them.
Dr Jones is also analysing the genetics of a type of childhood glioma called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) to find out how the disease develops. This research is part of Cancer Research UK’s Genomics Initiative – a set of groundbreaking projects that are using the latest high-tech gene sequencing machines to track down the genetic faults driving different types of cancer. These projects will bring us a step closer to more personalised cancer treatment – making sure patients receive the treatments that will work best for them.
New drugs to target key weaknesses
Dr Jones’ team has discovered that a particular cell growth ‘switch’ is often overactive in children’s brain tumours – this could be fuelling their growth and making them resistant to treatment. The team are testing brain tumour cells in the lab, treating them with chemicals that could ‘turn off’ the switch and stop tumour cells from growing.
The next step is to carry out more tests, to find out if these potential new drugs can shrink whole tumours, rather than just cells in the lab. The researchers will also combine their new drugs with a chemotherapy treatment called temozolomide – a drug developed by Cancer Research UK that is often used to treat glioblastoma.
If further tests are successful, this new approach will be tested in clinical trials to see if it could help to treat children with glioblastoma. Dr Jones’ research into these tumours is providing crucial knowledge to improve treatments for children affected by cancer, ultimately saving more lives.
Other research projects by Chris Jones
Funding period: 01 August 2010 to 31 December 2014
Funding period: 01 January 2012 to 31 December 2014