Landmark testing and treatment for brain cancer

Brain tumour patients at Addenbrooke’s Hospital are the first in the UK to benefit from personalised treatment using the latest innovations in genomics and cancer research.

The Minderoo Precision Brain Tumour Programme (MPBTP) aims to give more targeted 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, with test results turned around within ten days.

The ambition is to inspire, inform and ultimately improve the standard of care for all patients with brain cancer.

Daniel Covington, CUH patient

34 year old Daniel Covington is part of the Minderoo Precision Brain Tumour Programme (MPBTP) at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust.

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

Daniel Covington undergoing surgery at CUH

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.

Daniel Covington having radiotherapy treatment
Daniel said: Thanks to Richard and the team for what they are doing and for diagnosing me so quickly

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

We hope to use this information to identify whether any new, targeted treatments can be offered to these patients.
Richard Mair, consultant neurosurgeon at CUH and co-lead CRUK Brain Cancer Virtual Institute

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.

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.

UK Ambassador for Minderoo Foundation, Jess Mills, is closely involved. Her mother, the late Baroness Tessa Jowell, spent the final months of her life campaigning for better brain cancer treatments that could be made available to everyone via the NHS.

Jess Mills is a founding member of the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission, established to deliver her mother's legacy. She said:

Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40 in the UK. Thanks to the support of Minderoo Foundation, my hope is that every patient with a terminal diagnosis will soon be offered precision treatment, so that they get to have the best chance possible of living and living well with their diagnosis.
I am proud to carry on the campaign my Mum started after she was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer.

The MPBTP will also enable researchers unprecedented access to detailed genomic data on brain tumour patients to identify potential therapeutic targets, develop new treatments and offer innovative clinical trials.

Prof Richard Gilbertson, Director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre at the University of Cambridge said:

The focus on this rare but really aggressive tumour type is critical.
Because Minderoo has an interest in uniting patient data from across the globe, this helps us work with colleagues around the world effectively, bringing together everything we learn from patients, wherever they live, so we can build a more complete understanding of this terrible disease.

Minderoo Foundation Co-Chair Nicola Forrest said:

Brain cancer research has had little investment over the last several decades so that’s where we decided was most important to focus. At Minderoo Foundation, we seek out the hardest challenges and if we could make a difference there then it could translate across all cancers.

Dr David Bentley, Vice President & Chief Scientist, Illumina, said:

We are delighted to embark on this project with the Addenbrooke’s team, and to see how our genomics expertise can best help patients suffering from this debilitating cancer now and in the future.

Offering precision cancer treatment is a key aim of the planned new Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital, bringing together clinical expertise from Addenbrooke's with cutting-edge research from the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre and University of Cambridge.

The new specialist cancer hospital 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 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.