Studying Glioblastoma, the most aggressive cancer


Glioblastoma is the most fatal cancer, with a survival rate of just 3.3 percent two years after diagnosis. No two tumours are the same, and many have a high chance of returning.

Thanks to your donations, two research students – Abigail and Zak – are able to study at the University of Bristol to understand how these aggressive tumours start, grow, and why they don’t respond to therapies like other brain tumours.

Abigail’s research

Originally from Brighton, Abigail is using her biochemistry background and her extensive experience in genetic mutations to study tumour growth in the body’s most complex organ – the brain. Based in a wet lab – a lab environment where scientists analyse drugs, chemicals, and other types of biological matter – Abigail will spend the next three years of her PhD finding out more about the characteristics of the tumour, identifying which are the most detectable and the most useful for clinicians to create treatment plans specific to each patient.

Working on a controversial cell type associated with the return of tumours after being removed through surgery and radiotherapy, Abigail hopes to find out just what makes these tumours more likely to re-establish than others.

“Even after surgery and radiology, the return of these tumours is a major problem. For several years, there has been very little change in survival times for Glioblastoma patients. I hope my research will have overcome this huge stumbling block in our field of research and make a real difference to the outcomes for these patients.

PhD researcher Abigail Harland
PhD student Abigail is studying why Glioblastoma tumours more likely to return

“It’s such a privilege to know my research is only possible, thanks to generous donors to the Charity. Research is critical in advancing treatments and saving more lives from deadly diseases such as Glioblastoma and I am grateful to everyone who is helping me play a part in this.”

Zak’s research

Originally from County Durham, Zak has an MSc in Genomic Medicine and a BSc in Biomedical Science.

Split into two parts, Zak’s research will first look for mutations in genes that might make the tumour get worse, despite treatment. The second part will then look to identify potential drug targets to prevent these cancers from growing and progressing into much worse tumours. This could also mean that harsher methods such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy would potentially be used a lot less, which would be game-changing for a lot of patients.

“Progression in brain tumours is a field which is just starting to be explored thoroughly and there’s the potential we could find something ground-breaking which would make treatment so much better for people. Knowing you could improve someone’s quality of life is the biggest motivator for me.

Zak hopes his PhD will identify gene mutations and potential drug targets to help Glioblastoma patients

“I’m immensely grateful to all of the people who have donated to the Charity making the funding of my PhD possible. I aim to give back to them by producing research that will help the people of Bristol and beyond. The role they play in helping the NHS is amazing.”

Thank you for your support – it makes a huge difference to our patients, their families and our staff.

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