Scientists join forces to transform treatments for childhood brain tumours

By the Brain Tumour Charity

Experts at The Everest Centre are delivering a cutting-edge program of scientific research to develop
pioneering new treatments for children diagnosed with low-grade brain tumours, following major new funding
from The Brain Tumour Charity.

We are excited to announce we will be funding a further £5 million for the next five years of research. This
follows the achievements since 2017, when The Everest Centre was established.
The Everest Centre is a collaborative research centre that brings together world-leading experts from
Germany (the Hopp Children’s Cancer Center (KiTZ) and German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) in
Heidelberg and Charité University Hospital in Berlin) and the UK (University College London and Queen
Mary University of London).

The research focuses on low-grade glioma brain tumours that affect children. And aims to further
understand, diagnose and find new treatments for these tumours.

Why is this important?

Over 400 children (aged between 0-14) are diagnosed with a brain tumour each year in the UK. Of these,
approximately half are low-grade tumours.
More effective treatments are needed as there are limited ways to treat these tumours – standard of
treatment includes chemotherapy, radiotherapy and high risk surgery – all of which have a significant impact
on a child’s quality of life. The Everest Centre aims to change this through pioneering research.

The Everest Centre

The Everest Centre is funded by The Brain Tumour Charity thanks to the generosity and dedication of
Everest in the Alps – with a group of alpine skiers tackling a number of physically and mentally demanding
challenges to climb the equivalent height of Mt. Everest (8848m of elevation). Across a series of treks on
skis, the teams have raised millions of pounds for The Charity, which have been used to set up The Everest

The inspiration behind these challenges came when Rob Ritchie’s son, Toby was diagnosed with a low-
grade brain tumour aged 5. He wanted to do all he could to improve the lives of children living with low-grade
brain tumours. So he began raising money by bringing teams together to climb Everest in the Alps.
Since 2017, researchers have been working towards developing better models for low-grade brain tumours,
accelerating new clinical trials with a focus on quality of life for those diagnosed and improving knowledge on
the biology of tumour cells and how they interact with the immune system.

The success of the Everest Centre is a result of a network of researchers striving to improve the treatment
options and quality of life for children diagnosed with low grade brain tumours. The last five years of research
have seen lots of advances in research, with over 50 scientific papers published.

Here are five highlights of what The Everest Centre’s research teams have achieved in the last five years:

1. Research led to fundamental changes in the World Health Organisation’s classification of low grade brain
tumours, with paediatric tumours gaining their own category for the first time – this was a huge collaborative
effort across Everest researchers.

2. Testing of drugs, such as ulixertinib, which have potential as new treatments for low-grade tumours in

3. Creation of new lab models for low-grade tumours which could be used to understand the key
mechanisms driving the growth and behaviour of different cells within a tumour, and to allow potential new
treatments to be more rapidly and reliably screened.

4. Creation of important databases for collecting data on low-grade brain tumours and quality of life – having
all this information will help scientists to explore how the tumours develop and to enhance quality of life by
identifying ways to reduce the burden of treatment toxicity.

5. Improved understanding of sleeping (or ‘senescent’) cells in low-grade tumours and how these cells can
be treated in new ways – they are typically more resistant to standard chemotherapy since they are not
actively multiplying like other cancer cells.

Five examples of what The Everest Centre’s researchers hope to achieve in the next five years

1. Gaining a better understanding of the cells in low-grade brain tumours to identify new ways to block their
growth, in addition to finding new ways to predict which patients will benefit most from different treatment
options being tested in clinical trials.

2. Using cutting edge technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) to develop improved diagnostic tests
and enable a more precise tumour classification, which will ensure children receive the best possible
treatment tailored to their specific needs.

3. Using models previously developed by The Everest Centre for an in-depth analysis of key pathways
important for cancer cell growth, and for exploring new treatment options that could more efficiently block
these tumour growth signals.

4. Investigating the ways in which tumour cells communicate with other normal cell types in their
surroundings, which a particular focus on the body’s immune system and whether this can be re-trained
to fight tumour cells.

5. Setting up clinical trials that have a clear focus on maintaining excellent overall survival rates while
improving the quality of life for patients.

Anna Rae Dowling