New appointment aims to help develop brain tumour treatments

The University of Portsmouth has appointed Dr Diana Leite as a Senior Research Associate to work on novel methods for screening treatments for adult brain tumours.

(l-r) John Reynolds, JMF; Professor Geoff Pilkington; Dr Lucy Reynolds, JMF; Lorde Reynolds, JMF; Dr Diana Leite; John McCarthy, JMF; Barbara McCarthy, JMF.

Dr Leite, from Porto, Portugal, recently obtained her PhD from the University of Portsmouth on research into a novel targeted drug delivery system able to carry cytotoxic drugs across the blood-brain barrier for the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme, which is the most common and aggressive brain tumour in adults (carrying a mean prognosis of 14 months).

Dr Leite has continued her research and is currently developing an in vitro model that mimics the tumour microenvironment for the screening of novel, repurposed and formulated drugs for the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme.

Dr Leite said: “Glioblastoma multiforme is a challenging disease. Despite all of the efforts, little progress has been achieved in terms of treatment in the past decades due to the multifaceted nature of this devastating disease. I would be thrilled to be able to create an in vitro model of the complex tumour microenvironment, which will offer an insight to the behaviour of the tumour in its native form and its response to various chemotherapeutic agents. I truly believe that this would facilitate drug screening, and hopefully help in the development of novel therapies for the treatment of glioblastoma.”

The position is funded by a three-year grant from the Jake McCarthy Foundation, which was set up by his family to raise awareness of the symptoms of brain tumours and ensure early diagnosis, in memory of Jake.

Barbara McCarthy, from the Jake McCarthy Foundation, said: “The Jake McCarthy Foundation are proud to be funding Diana on such an important research project for the next three years.  We are determined, with the help of our supporters, to help find a cure for this devastating disease that robs us of our loved ones so young.”

Dr Leite will work with two research fellows (Dr Samantha Higgins and Dr Samantha Murray) and Professor Geoffrey Pilkington, Head of the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at the University of Portsmouth – one of four UK Centres of Excellence funded by Brain Tumour Research.

Professor Pilkington added: “At present drugs for the treatment of malignant brain tumours are tested on single layers or colonies of tumour cells but we know that the normal brain cells within which the tumours grow strongly influence drug sensitivity. We are, therefore, building more representative living multi-cellular models for testing new, repurposed and re-formulated drugs which better reflects the situation in the human brain.”

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