Glioblastoma and ascorbate

Status: Complete
Year: 2019
Funded: $99,883
Grant Type: Major Project Grant

A diagnosis of the brain cancer glioblastoma is devastating, and despite modern treatment, median survival with this cancer is only 15 months. New treatment options are desperately needed. Improved understanding of the biology of glioblastoma has highlighted conditions, such as low oxygen availability in the tumour (hypoxia) and epigenetic modifications to DNA, that enhance cancer growth and resistance to therapy.

Recent information from other cancers indicates that these conditions can be modified by increased levels of vitamin C (ascorbate). In this project, we propose to analyse glioblastoma tumours from the Christchurch Cancer Society Tissue Bank to investigate whether ascorbate levels in the tumour vary with markers of tissue hypoxia and epigenetic alterations.

The unique resource of the Tissue Bank will allow us to determine whether there is a relationship between ascorbate and the hypoxic pathway or epigenetic driver proteins, and whether there is any link with prognostic markers and with patient outcome. This will contribute important information for treating oncologists and their patients.

Researcher // Dr Elisabeth Phillips – University of Otago

The main focus of Dr Phillips’ research is related to the field of cancer cell biology. Dr Phillips has mainly focused on breast cancer; investigating the mechanisms behind therapy resistance using proteomics and investigating the risk factor obesity and how it contributes to the progression of cancer.

More About Dr Elisabeth Phillips

What is a Brain Tumour?

A brain tumour occurs when abnormal cells form within the brain. There are two main types of tumours: cancerous tumours and benign (non-cancerous) tumours. Cancerous tumours can be divided into primary tumours, which start within the brain, and secondary tumours, which have spread from elsewhere, known as brain metastasis tumours. All types of brain tumours may produce symptoms that vary depending on the part of the brain involved. These symptoms may include headaches, seizures, problems with vision, vomiting and mental changes. The headache is classically worse in the morning and goes away with vomiting. Other symptoms may include difficulty walking, speaking or with sensations. As the disease progresses, unconsciousness may occur.

The cause of most brain tumours is unknown. Uncommon risk factors include exposure to vinyl chloride, Epstein–Barr virus, ionising radiation, and inherited syndromes such as neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis, and von Hippel-Lindau Disease. Studies on mobile phone exposure have not shown a clear risk. The most common types of primary tumours in adults are meningiomas (usually benign) and astrocytomas such as glioblastomas. In children, the most common type is a malignant medulloblastoma. Diagnosis is usually by medical examination along with computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). 

The median survival with glioblastoma is only 15 months.
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Less than 1 out of 10 with GBM (Glioblastoma Multiforma) will be alive at 5 years.
Brain Cancer kills more people under 40 than any other cancer.
Only 2 out of 10 Brain Cancer patients will survive at least 5 years.

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