January 2019

NHS immunotherapy clinical trial for brain cancer patients opens thanks to The National Brain Appeal

A new immunotherapy clinical trial for brain cancer patients, available to NHS patients across the UK, has started to recruit patients, thanks to funding from The National Brain Appeal.

With no new brain cancer drugs licensed for more than 15 years, the charity, dedicated to raising funds for The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, part of University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH) and for the Institute of Neurology, has taken this significant step. The drug ipilimumab, that has seen significant improvements in survival rates for people with melanoma skin cancer, will be given to patients with glioblastoma, a very aggressive form of brain cancer.

Dr Paul Mulholland, consultant medical oncologist at UCLH, has designed the phase II clinical trial. He is the lead investigator for the trial which is sponsored and managed by the University of Oxford. Bristol-Myers Squibb has also contributed in part funding the study by providing the drug. The trial will also be supported by the National Institute for Health Research University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre.

One hundred and twenty patients newly diagnosed with glioblastoma will be recruited to the trial. Following the current standard treatment, surgery (where possible) plus radiotherapy and chemotherapy, eighty of these will be given the drug ipilimumab in addition, with forty receiving standard treatment alone. This is a targeted immunotherapy cancer drug that blocks a key regulator in the immune system, making the immune system more active.

Glioblastoma is the most common type of primary, malignant and very aggressive brain tumour with around 2,200 cases diagnosed each year in England. The average survival is less than a year with fewer than 10% of patients alive five years after diagnosis following standard treatment.

Theresa Dauncey, Chief Executive of The National Brain Appeal, said: “This is the most significant clinical trial for brain cancer patients for many years. Investment in brain cancer research has been abysmal and we at The National Brain Appeal are happy to be part of the solution. This is an important step in the right direction. Fantastic support from our fundraisers has enabled us to start the trial now having reached half of our £250,000 target and we will continue to fundraise to funds for the second year.”

Dr Mulholland said: “As clinicians we have had no new treatment options for patients with glioblastoma for well over a decade. There is an urgent need for new treatments to improve clinical outcomes and survival for these patients. When using ipilimumab previously in brain cancer patients, we have seen, in some patients, some dramatic and exciting responses. The aim of this clinical trial is to see if these responses lead to improved life expectancy. If this treatment works, this will be a vital step in changing the treatment for this patient group for the better.”

The National Brain Appeal needs to raise £125,000 to fund the second year of the trial.

To donate to The National Brain Appeal’s Immunotherapy Fund go to: https://www.justgiving.com/campaigns/charity/tnba/immunotherapy

See this story in the Evening Standard

Notes to Editors:

The National Brain Appeal also supported the funding of Paul Mulholland’s role to lead on clinical trials. This has significantly increased the number of patients who participate in important research. As a result, The National Hospital is now the largest recruiter to brain tumour trials in the UK and has built a reputation for consistently providing high quality research data.

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is the nation’s largest funder of health and care research. The NIHR:

  • Funds, supports and delivers high quality research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care
  • Engages and involves patients, carers and the public in order to improve the reach, quality and impact of research
  • Attracts, trains and supports the best researchers to tackle the complex health and care challenges of the future
  • Invests in world-class infrastructure and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services
  • Partners with other public funders, charities and industry to maximise the value of research to patients and the economy

The NIHR was established in 2006 to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research, and is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. In addition to its national role, the NIHR commissions applied health research to benefit the poorest people in low- and middle-income countries, using Official Development Assistance funding.