Mobile menu open

Milestone reached in pioneering brain cancer trial

More than 140 brain cancer patients have benefitted from a landmark NHS testing and treatment programme being trialled at Addenbrooke's, using the latest innovations in genomics and cancer research.

Targeted therapies and precision medicine will be at the forefront of care offered at Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital, a new hospital that will treat brain cancer patients and bring together clinical expertise from Addenbrooke's with cutting-edge research from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre and University of Cambridge.

Daniel Covington
Daniel Covington, CUH brain cancer patient

"Thanks to Richard and the team for what they are doing and for diagnosing me so quickly. The outlook is not curable, but there are positives to go forward with."

Daniel Covington, CUH patient

Launched 16 months ago, the Minderoo Precision Brain Tumour Programme (MPBTP) aims to give more precise and effective care for brain cancer patients on the NHS, with the potential to revolutionise treatment and improve survival rates.

Patients with the most aggressive and fatal form of brain tumour, called glioblastoma, are being offered a detailed diagnosis and tailored treatment plan, based on genomic sequencing.

The programme originally set out to recruit 125 patients from Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) but has already enrolled 140 patients in just over a year.

Since starting, the programme has identified potential drug targets in more than 90 per cent of patients on the trial, recommended precision therapies for 11 per cent and informed a change in diagnosis and treatment for three per cent.

Significantly, the time from surgery to results of genomic testing is just 20 days, a big improvement on a timeframe that has taken months in the past.

WATCH: Daniel's story and more about the Minderoo programme


"I don't look for the negatives and having just celebrated my 36th birthday, my goal is to reach my 40th and have a big party!"

Daniel Covington

Daniel Covington is part of the Minderoo Precision Brain Tumour Programme (MPBTP) at CUH.

He was diagnosed with a brain tumour towards the end of 2021 and underwent surgery a few weeks later to remove as much of the tumour as possible.

During the operation, a tumour sample was taken and then sequenced at Illumina, a few miles away in Cambridge, to identify genomic mutations that are driving the tumour growth.

In ten days, the tumour genome had been sequenced and the results were discussed at a genomics tumour advisory board meeting at Addenbrooke's Hospital to identify the best treatment.

This means Daniel was able to access a personalised treatment plan from the time of his initial diagnosis.

More than a year later, he now comes in to CUH for check ups every few months to monitor his condition. He says:

"It's been an up and down year. I've had to give up my job, but I've taken up woodwork to keep me busy.

"I had a seizure back in January and needed to have my medication increased, but touch wood, I've been ok since and I'm going on holiday soon to Greece."

Richard Mair
Richard Mair, CUH consultant neurosurgeon

"This incredibly exciting new programme enables us to analyse the mutations driving a patient’s tumour in real-time."

Richard Mair, CUH consultant neurosurgeon

Richard Mair is a consultant neurosurgeon at CUH and leading the programme. He said:

“The Minderoo Precision Brain Tumour Programme is giving patients hope; it’s showing and demonstrating that we are moving forwards.”

There are more than 100 distinct types of brain cancer, defined by their genomic profile, making them difficult to precisely diagnose and treat.

“Sequencing of the DNA and RNA within tumour cells helps us to make more precise diagnoses, helps to make prognoses clearer, helps to determine the best treatment options, and helps to guide patients towards clinical trials for which they might be eligible,” Dr Mair said.

"This incredibly exciting new programme enables us to analyse the mutations driving a patient’s tumour in real-time.

"We hope to use this information to identify whether any new, targeted treatments can be offered to these patients.”

The team aims to enroll 225 patients on to the programme over three years, aiming to demonstrate the benefits of precision medicine for all NHS brain cancer patients.

Daniel Covington
Daniel Covington having radiotherapy treatment

The Minderoo Precision Brain Tumour Programme (MPBTP) is a partnership between The Minderoo Foundation, The Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH), Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre at the University of Cambridge and Illumina.

Aileen Boyd-Squires, Head of Personalised Cancer Care for Minderoo Foundation’s Collaborate Against Cancer initiative, said:

“This programme has already demonstrated direct clinical benefit for patients.

“The data generated by the comprehensive genomic sequencing will help us to identify tumour-specific mutations which can be targeted by specialised treatments.

"Our hope is that this pilot can expand to other NHS centres so that more patients can benefit.

“Minderoo Foundation is very proud to support this programme, and we are committed to helping to make brain cancer non-lethal within a generation.”

Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital
3D plan of the new Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital

Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital is a new specialist cancer hospital that will combine modern NHS clinical space with three new research institutes dedicated to fulfilling the ambitions set out in the government's Life Science Strategy and the NHS Long Term Plan.

This unique facility will offer specialist care to cancer patients, including those with brain tumours, and will be where the majority of Cambridge University Hospital's cancer staff will be based.

It will change the story of cancer for patients in this region, nationally and globally – by detecting cancer earlier, diagnosing it more accurately, and treating it more precisely.