Seve Ballesteros Foundation: improving radiotherapy to help treat brain cancer
Last updated: 25/04/2013
What's this project about?
Around 9,300 people are diagnosed with tumours of the brain and central nervous system, in the UK every year. These tumours are often hard to treat, so research in this area is vital to improving survival.
Professor Susan Short is carrying out crucial lab research to gain a deeper understanding of how certain brain cancer cells survive radiotherapy. Her work could lead to the development of new drugs that make this treatment more effective, improving the outlook for many people with brain cancer.
The Seve Ballesteros Foundation has partnered with Cancer Research UK to help beat brain cancer.
Project closed - January 2013
We are very excited to announce that thanks to your incredible support, we have achieved the project target of £100,000! Thank you to everyone who has fundraised and generously donated - we really appreciate your support.
Fundraising and donations to this project has now closed, but we are raising money for another area of brain cancer research that you can support:
We've received a project update from Professor Short:
We are continuing to work on identifying new ways to improve the outlook for patients with glioma who are treated with radiotherapy.
New evidence suggests that a specific type of cell within adult brain tumours, described as a 'stem cell', may be especially important in determining how these cancers behave. These stem cells seem to have a special ability to survive and grow after radiotherapy or chemotherapy.
Stem cells can be difficult to identify, but often have high levels of specific molecules that seem to help them grow indefinitely, even after treatment. We have recently completed a set of experiments that have identified some molecules that help the stem cells survive radiotherapy.
This is very exciting, especially as some of these proteins can be targeted by drugs that are already available. We now need to do more research to check that these drugs can stop gliomas growing when we use them with radiotherapy, but so far the results that we have are encouraging.
We recently spoke with Professor Short, who wanted to update you on the progress of the project. Read on for her message:
We are working to understand how some brain tumour cells are able to survive damage caused by treatment with radiotherapy, and hope we will find new ways to make the cancer cells more sensitive to treatment with radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Our research is going very well, and we've recently made some exciting progress.
When cancer cells are hit by radiotherapy or come into contact with a chemotherapy drug, this causes damage to the genetic material of the cell - the DNA. If the DNA of the cancer cell is damaged it can no longer grow and it dies. But sometimes cancer cells are able to repair the damage to the DNA, and they can survive treatment.
We know that one of the ways cancer cells do this is by using a 'repairing' molecule called Rad51. Brain cancer cells usually have high levels of Rad51, but we have shown that if we can reduce the amount, radiotherapy and the chemotherapy drug temozolomide are more effective at killing the cancer cells.
In the lab, we use cells that were taken from a brain tumour that we have altered so that they can keep on multiplying for a long time - this is called a 'cell line'. Cell lines are a very good model for us to work on because they originally came from cancer cells, and we are able to grow sufficient quantities of them for our research.
But recently, by working with brain cancer pathologists, we have been able to grow cells that have been taken directly from brain tumours. These experiments have shown that cells taken directly from brain tumours respond even better to temozolomide or radiotherapy when we reduce the levels of the Rad51molecule - a very exciting finding.
We think that Rad51 could be a good target for new drugs in the future - if given alongside other treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy, they could make treatment more effective and improve the outlook for people with cancer. It is thanks to your donations that we are able to carry out this work and we are very grateful for your support.
A note from the Seve team
A huge thank you to everyone who has supported this project so far. Whether you have taken on a challenge or sponsored someone who has, you are helping us to develop more effective treatments for people diagnosed with brain cancer.
With your outstanding support we are getting closer to funding £100,000 of this groundbreaking research project. We could not have achieved this without your commitment and generosity.
Thank you for helping us stay on course to beat brain cancer and we hope you will continue to find new and exciting challenges to take on which will help raise funds for this vital research.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed to this project so far, your support is helping us develop more effective treatments for those diagnosed with brain cancer.
We have a long way to go to reach our target, so please help spread the word about the project and all we do here at the Seve Ballesteros Foundation. We need your help to stay on course to beat brain cancer.
What is the science behind this project?
Professor Short is a cancer doctor who has 10 years experience of treating people with brain tumours.
Along with her clinical work, she studies cells from gliomas - the most common type of brain tumour - in the lab to understand more about the way they respond to radiotherapy.
Radiotherapy is a vital treatment for many people with glioma. It works by delivering DNA-damaging 'punches' to cancer cells - with the aim of landing enough to kill them.
However, some glioma cells can repair this DNA damage and dodge death. This means they can live on and help the tumour to continue growing. Developing ways to improve radiotherapy so that more glioma cells are killed will help improve long-term survival for people with these brain tumours.
But before this can happen, scientists need a better understanding of what allows some glioma cells to survive radiotherapy in the first place.
Professor Short is investigating how glioma cells can repair the damage caused by radiotherapy. Her team is also investigating whether combining radiotherapy with chemotherapy drugs that damage DNA could improve survival by throwing some extra 'punches'.
The difference you can make
Thanks to the generosity of our supporters in the past, our researchers discovered the drug temozolomide, which is now used worldwide to treat thousands of people with brain cancer. Your support now could lead to our next breakthrough.
Professor Short's important research could ultimately lead to new ways to target glioma cells to make them more sensitive to radiotherapy, improving survival for many thousands of people who develop these brain tumours in the future.
Please help us raise £100,000 to cover the cost of researchers vital to Professor Short's groundbreaking work.
Seve Ballesteros Foundation: On course to beat brain cancer
Seve Ballesteros was diagnosed with a brain tumour in October 2008 and bravely fought his illness for over two years.
To help others in his position, Seve established the Seve Ballesteros Foundation in partnership with Cancer Research UK in 2009 to raise money for brain cancer research.
Sadly, in May 2011 Seve lost his fight against brain cancer. The Seve Ballesteros Foundation is continuing to fight brain cancer in Seve's memory. It was Seve's ambition to become the major funder of brain cancer in the UK and with your help, together we will achieve his aim.
Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK says:
Seve was a hero to many for all he achieved during his career, but never more so than in the months after he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.
His personal battle against the disease, and his determination to help others through his Foundation, was truly inspirational.
To find out more, visit the Seve Ballesteros Foundation website.