Grant from Innovate UK SMART awarded to accelerate clinical trial progress

Xerion Healthcare and Medicines Discovery Catapult (MDC) have been awarded Innovate UK SMART Grant funding for treating brain tumours.

Existing treatment approaches include surgery to remove as much of the tumour as possible, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It is common, however, for the tumour to return to the site of removal. Indeed, recurrent tumours require extensive medical interventions, which often do not translate into increased rates of survival.

With this considered, the award will help to develop a unique solution that will enhance the impact of post-surgical radiotherapy on aggressive brain tumours while also reducing cancer regrowth.

In recent years good progress has been made to treat certain common cancers, but there remains a significant unmet need for many areas of oncology. Radiotherapy can treat solid tumours and increasing the x-ray dose has been shown to improve treatment outcomes, but it does typically have a detrimental effect on healthy tissue.

Xerion – a SME spin-out from the University of Oxford – has developed a nanoparticle solution that increases the effectiveness of radiotherapy, without damaging healthy tissue.

The radiotherapy-enhancing nanoparticles are released into areas of remaining tumour in an advanced clinically relevant in-vivo model developed by specialists at MDC. The group then studies tumour regrowth with and without the nanoparticles to demonstrate efficacy. This system duly incorporates MDC's pre-clinical radiotherapy platform and advanced imaging capability at its laboratory in Cheshire.

Dr Martin Main, chief scientist at Medicines Discovery Catapult, explained: "At MDC, we are driven by reshaping drug discovery for the benefit of patients, and this project is the epitome of that. Combining Xerion's radiotherapy expertise with MDC's advanced imaging capability will allow us to address a critical unmet need for treating aggressive brain tumours and move one step closer to improving the quality of life for many patients."

Dr Gareth Wakefield, chief technology officer at Xerion Healthcare, reflected: "High-grade brain tumours are an extremely challenging disease type with little improvement in outcomes over the last forty years. New treatment options are urgently needed to reduce the almost inevitable regrowth of these tumours following resection.”

“To develop these treatments, advanced models and imaging are required. By partnering with the experts at MDC, Xerion will be able to apply its nanoparticle radiotherapy enhancing technology to a realistic model of this disease, bringing novel treatments closer to the clinic," he concluded.