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INSTINCT - on a mission to beat childhood brain tumours

Fast facts

  • Official title: The Institute of Child Health - Newcastle University – Institute of Cancer Research High-Risk Childhood Brain Tumour Network (INSTINCT)
  • Lead researchers: Prof Steven Clifford, Prof Chris Jones, and Dr Darren Hargrave
  • Where: Newcastle University; Institute of Cancer Research; Great Ormond Street Hospital
  • When: May 2014- July 2020
  • Cost: £3.2 million over five years. Co-funded with Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity, Children with Cancer UK, The Alex Bolt Fund, Katy Holmes Trust and Garfield Weston Foundation
  • Research type: Paediatric, High Grade, Integrated translational research programme, Academic and Clinical

Aiming to develop new drugs targeting specific mutations in tumours by using cutting-edge screening techniques to identify critical genetic and biochemical features of aggressive brain tumours in children.

Researchers based at the major brain tumour research centres at Newcastle University, the University College London Institute of Child Health (ICH) and the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) are exploring new ways to treat some of the most lethal childhood brain tumours. The team aims to save lives by developing tailored and targeted treatments.

We believe the research we're doing is cutting edge, it's pioneering in terms that we're actually focusing very much on high risk brain tumours.

Dr Darren Hargrave

The study will use the latest screening techniques to identify the genetic and biochemical profiles of aggressive brain tumours in children. The team will then link the tumour profile with the progress of each patient to identify links between tumour characteristics and prognosis.

A better understanding of the biological mechanisms that drive brain tumours means that the researchers can develop drugs that target specific tumour characteristics.

Researchers hope that screening brain tumours will give patients a more accurate diagnosis and lead to personalised treatment that specifically targets the biological mechanism responsible for tumour development.

Personalising treatment ensures that patients with more aggressive brain tumours receive a more intense course of therapy, and will spare patients with a less severe form of tumour from unnecessarily harsh and debilitating treatments.

This £4 million research programme, known as INSTINCT, has been funded by The Brain Tumour Charity in conjunction with Children with Cancer UK and Great Ormond Street Children's Charity and will run for five years.

Each of the research centres will focus on a different high-risk childhood brain tumour such as medulloblastomas (Newcastle), diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (ICR) and ETANTR, a lethal embryonal tumour with abundant neuropil and true rosettes (ICH).

It is hoped that this research programme will greatly enhance our understanding of these aggressive tumours and that this new understanding can be rapidly translated into new and effective treatments.

Our research programme has really grown alongside the charity and the funding that it's been able to provide

Professor Steve Clifford

Research is just one other way your regular gift can make a difference

Research is the only way we will discover kinder, more effective treatments and, ultimately, stamp out brain tumours – for good! However, brain tumours are complex and research in to them takes a great deal of time and money.

Across the UK, over 100,000 families are facing the overwhelming diagnosis of a brain tumour and it is only through the generosity of people like you can we continue to help them.

But, by setting up a regular gift – as little as £2 per month - you can ensure that families no longer face this destructive disease.

Donate today

Dr Darren Hargrave talks about INSTINCT, what it is, and what can be gained from the research.
Dr Chris Jones explains what he is researching in his lab, and how INSTINCT is enabling the research being carried out.
Professor Steve Clifford talks about INSTINCT and his research at the University of Newcastle.