Launched 16 months ago, 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.
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.
In this time 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.
35 year old Daniel Covington is part of the Minderoo Precision Brain Tumour Programme (MPBTP) at Addenbrooke's.
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.
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."
"I don't look for the negatives and having just celebrated my 36th birthday, my goal is to reach my 40th."
"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."
Dr Mair who co-leads our Brain Cancer Virtual Institute said: “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.
"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.
Around 200,000 people die each year worldwide from glioblastoma, the most common and deadly of all brain cancers.
“The Minderoo Precision Brain Tumour Programme has already demonstrated direct clinical benefit for patients,” said Aileen Boyd-Squires, Head of Personalised Cancer Care for Minderoo Foundation’s Collaborate Against Cancer initiative.
“The data generated by the comprehensive genomic sequencing offered by this Programme 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.”
Offering precision cancer treatment is a key aim of the 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.
The Minderoo Precision Brain Tumour Programme is a partnership with Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, NHS East Genomics Laboratory Hub, Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre at the University of Cambridge, Illumina and the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission.