Plymouth researcher receives grant to further investigate causes of hereditary neuro-tumors

The University of Plymouth will be continuing its research into the advancement of neuro-tumor treatments thanks to more than £100,000 from Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity and Sparks, the medical research charity.

Led by Dr Sylwia Ammoun, Senior Research Fellow in Clinical Neurobiology, together with her co-applicant Professor Oliver Hanemann, the project team will use the funding to further investigate causes of hereditary condition Neurofibromatosis 2 (NF2).

The grant follows the team's 2017 study, published in leading cancer journal Oncogene, revealing the role of the normal, cellular form of prion protein (PrPC) in the development of NF2-related tumors.

The team found for the first time that PrPC is over-produced in schwannoma (a benign tumor of the tissue that covers nerves) compared with healthy Schwann cells. This overproduction is due to deficiency of a tumor suppressor called Merlin, and strongly contributes to tumor growth and patient prognosis.

Dr Ammoun is part of the University of Plymouth's Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence - one of four institutions in the UK partnered with national charity Brain Tumour Research using 'world-class' research to accelerate progress towards finding a cure.

The funding comes as part of a £2.1 million investment by Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity and Sparks, marking the largest charitable funding call dedicated to child health research in the UK.

Dr Ammoun said: "I am delighted to have received funding from GOSH Charity and Sparks which will enable our team to further investigate NF2, which is characterized by the development of multiple tumors of the nervous system such as schwannomas, meningiomas, and ependymomas.

"Brain tumors kill more people under 40 than any other cancer, so it's vital that we keep investigating them and work towards finding a cure sooner.

"It's fantastic to know that these two charities will are making such a large amount available for child health researchers across the UK to bid for each year. We made large strides in last year's study, and we're looking forward to making more as a result of this funding."

The £2.1 million is funding 13 more researchers at 10 different Institutions across the UK from Plymouth to Liverpool, looking at treatments for a range of diseases such as stem cell therapy for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, immunotherapy treatment for brain tumours, new treatments for children with a type of motor neuron disease, and diagnostic techniques for cerebral palsy.

The projects reflect the ambition of the charities to enable new treatments to be taken from the lab bench to the patient's bedside, speeding up the diagnosis and treatment of complex conditions.

Tim Johnson, Chief Executive of GOSH Charity and Sparks says: "For many seriously ill children, research is their only hope, yet pediatric research is severely underfunded, receiving only five percent of public and charitable funding research in the UK each year. "By making more money available to researchers from across the country we will help them to find new ways to diagnose, treat and cure complex diseases that affect children."

Kiki Syrad, Director of Grants and Impact at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity says: "The invitation to researchers to apply for funding received a huge response from the pediatric research community. We look forward to seeing how Dr Ammoun's project progresses."

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