Brain cancer is incurable. Typical life expectancy after tumour discovery is only around 12-15 months, even with the best treatment available. This horrible disease also affects children and they do not survive for long either once the disease is found.  

One treatment for brain cancer involves surgery to remove the cancer lump. Unfortunately, even when the visible lump is removed, there are still cancer cells left behind. These cells mix in with normal brain tissue, making them impossible to cut out with surgery. Instead, doctors try to kill the leftover cells with strong X-rays (Radiotherapy) and strong medicines (Chemotherapy).  However, some of the cancer cells find ways to resist treatment and eventually grow back new tumours. We desperately need new treatments to help these patients. 

Leeds Hospitals Charity has awarded £200k to fund the final two years of a PhD for new researcher Christopher Yusuf Akhunbay-Fudge.

Christopher’s study aims to learn why some cancer cells don’t progress to the stage of the cell cycle that makes them vulnerable to treatment.  

Using a special method, researchers are able to see under a microscope in different colours, as brain cancer cells go through the cell cycle. The colours change as the cells go through different points in the cell cycle. The study will insert the coloured cancer cells into a normal ball of brain tissue, so they can monitor the cell cycle.  

New technologies have enabled researchers to artificially force these cells to the point of their cell cycle where they are vulnerable to treatment. Drugs have already been identified for trial that can force cells in this way. 

Trainee surgeon Christopher has decided to take three years out of his doctors training programme to focus on this study. It’s the perfect project for him as it brings together different passions and interests: mathematics science and medicine.  

Christopher says: “The lab is where you can test real hypotheses and hope to see breakthroughs. If by the end of my three-year project we’re able to add to the arsenal available to treat and prolong life, I will feel a great sense of achievement. Although early in my career, I have met with many patients diagnosed with glioblastoma (an aggressive type of brain cancer). It’s indiscriminate and wreaks havoc for families. There are no survivors of glioblastoma.” 

We can’t wait to learn more and follow Christopher’s progress. The visuals are mind blowing – thousands of cells moving, changing colour. At Leeds Hospitals Charity we are committed to supporting early career researchers. Leeds Teaching Hospitals has been recognized as a Tessa Jowell Centre of Excellence and there is huge scope and potential in this area.  

Yorkshire has some pretty shocking cancer rates - that are in fact the worst in the country – by combining new technologies, talented individuals and the right support and structure we hope to see a different outcome for these patients.