Academics at The University of Nottingham are leading the UK arm of a large international clinical trial for a type of children’s brain tumour called ependymoma.
The trial, funded through Cancer Research UK Kids and Teens’ partnership with TK Maxx, will treat around 150 children in the UK with ependymoma up to the age of 22. Researchers aim to find the most successful treatment option with the fewest side effects for patients and to learn more about the biology of the disease.
Patients will be diagnosed and treated at their regional children’s and young person’s cancer centre. Experts at the University’s Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre (CBTRC) will host a weekly meeting to advise and support doctors at the local treatment centres on their best care plan for the patients.
The CBTRC is one of the five international centres working on the underlying biology of ependymoma, a rare tumour of the nervous system which in children and young people is most commonly found in the brain, and will also analyse patient samples collected from hospitals across the country and internationally.
The trial will be coordinated in the UK by the University of Birmingham’s Cancer Research UK Clinical Trials Unit. This includes setting up the trial in children’s cancer centres in the UK, registering patients for the trial, collecting patient information, and managing data from the trial.
The UK arm of the trial will feed into a large international trial, following more than 500 children, teenagers and young adults across 16 European countries to try to improve the outcome for this difficult to manage, complex brain tumour. The trial will run for five years and follow patients for up to 10 years.
Around 30 children and young people are diagnosed with ependymoma in the UK every year and while treatment options have improved, the disease can come back. And the aggressive treatments used can have long-lasting effects including learning difficulties, hearing loss and problems with physical development.
The patients will be divided into groups and each group will receive different treatment.
• Patients whose tumour appears to have been fully removed by surgery will be placed in the first group. These patients will be treated either with proton beam radiotherapy alone or will receive proton beam radiotherapy followed by chemotherapy.
• Patients in the second group whose tumours were not fully removed through surgery will be treated with chemotherapy followed by radiotherapy. These patients may also need more surgery.
• The third group will treat very young children under the age of 18 months and children between the age of 18 – 36 months depending on where their tumour is, or other children and young adults. Patients in this group will not be given radiotherapy because they are more susceptible to serious side effects from this treatment. These patients will be treated with chemotherapy and some will receive drugs called histone deacetylase inhibitors which are now being investigated as possible cancer treatments.
Professor Richard Grundy, the UK’s trial lead from The University of Nottingham said: “The study will improve our overall understanding of the biology of this disease while providing evidence for which groups of patients and treatments have the best outcomes and how best to treat this complex disease in the future.
“In the future this will allow us to develop more tailored treatment plans based on patients’ age and diagnosis to give them the best chance of beating this aggressive disease while reducing the long-term impact that treatments may have on their lives.”
Professor Pam Kearns, Cancer Research UK’s senior clinical advisor and director of the University of Birmingham’s Clinical Trials Unit, said: “Although we’re losing fewer young lives to cancer, a lot more needs to be done to improve treatment options for children. Ependymoma is the third most common type of children’s brain tumour and we need more good quality research to improve how we treat the disease and to help diagnose and treat it at an earlier stage.
“Cancer Research UK set up the Kids & Teens campaign to increase the investment in research focused on children’s cancers and develop more effective treatments that reduce the long term side effects that can have a major impact later in life.”
TK Maxx is the biggest corporate supporter of research into children’s cancers in the UK, having raised £25.5 million for Cancer Research UK through stock and cash donations since launching its partnership with the charity in 2004. £21.5 million of this total directly funds research into children’s cancers through its partnership with Cancer Research UK, with £4 million supporting general cancer research.
The fashion retailer funded Professor Grundy’s clinical trial to mark the 10th anniversary of the partnership in 2014.
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and the winner of ‘Outstanding Support for Early Career Researchers’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2015. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK by research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for four years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.
Impact: The Nottingham Campaign, its biggest-ever fundraising campaign, is delivering the University’s vision to change lives, tackle global issues and shape the future. More news…
About The Cancer Research Clinical Trials Unit at the University of Birmingham
The Cancer Research Clinical Trials Unit (CRCTU) at the University of Birmingham) is a CR UK core-funded trials unit and is a centre of excellence for early and late phase trials in a range of rare and common cancers across the full spectrum of age groups investigating all treatment modalities; therapeutics, radiotherapy and surgery. The trials Unit has longstanding expertise in adult solid tumour trials and malignant haematology and is CR UK’s designated national paediatric cancer trials unit, leading both nationally and internationally in trials for children and adolescents with cancer.
About Cancer Research UK
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• Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last forty years.
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