Edinburgh scientist awarded £1 million for cutting-edge research into brain tumours

Edinburgh scientist Dr Noor Gammoh has been awarded �1.64 million by the charity to study the most common type of brain tumour at the Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre. 
Picture: Craig Nicol
/MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine

Edinburgh scientist Dr Noor Gammoh has been awarded �1.64 million by the charity to study the most common type of brain tumour at the Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre. Picture: Craig Nicol /MRC Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine

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A TALENTED young city scientist has been awarded more than £1 million for cutting-edge research into brain tumours.

Dr Noor Gammoh, 33, hopes her work will lead to new treatments for the most common type of brain tumour, called glioblastoma.

Around 265 people are diagnosed with glioblastoma in the brain every year in Scotland but the treatments currently available are limited and life expectancy after diagnosis is about a year.

Dr Gammoh will receive £1.64 million from Cancer Research UK to support her research.

She is one of only three researchers in the UK this year to have been awarded a prestigious Career Development Fellowship by the charity.

The grant will allow her to set up her own research group at the Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre, a world-leading centre for brain tumour research based at Edinburgh University and the Western General Hospital.

She said: “We are trying to understand the mechanism that allows tumours to survive and continue to grow. Hopefully that will lead us to new ways to tackle the disease and improve survival rates.

“This is a kind of tumour where research has not made much advance for many years, so it is a tumour that needs more attention and focus so we can enhance the outcome for patients.”

Dr Gammoh first came to Edinburgh from Jordan in 2000 to study biological sciences at Edinburgh University.

She spent three years in the city before going to Italy where she did a PhD focusing on cervical cancer and then to the United States and post-doctoral research at a cancer centre in New York City, where she first began to study brain tumours.

Not long after she started her research in the United States, the mother of one of her closest friends was diagnosed with glioblastoma, giving her a personal insight into the effects of the disease.

Dr Gammoh said: “Seeing the impact of glioblastoma on my friend and his family really brought home to me the importance of my research.

“It’s one thing to read about it in books, but it’s another when you experience it close to you. That was quite devastating but it also stimulates the research, making you realise how urgently we need to find new treatments for brain tumours that will improve survival.”

Dr Gammoh returned to Edinburgh last year and is delighted to have been chosen for the fellowship funding.

“I’m so pleased to have been awarded this fellowship because it will allow me to test my ideas in the lab, and potentially find new ways to help more people survive this disease.

“I’m excited about having my own team and to train other scientists in order for them to pursue their career and help the fight against such aggressive cancers.”

The aim of Dr Gammoh’s research will be to find out whether glioblastoma cells grow, survive and become resistant to treatment by using a “self-recycling” system that allows them to recycle old, damaged parts of the cells that are no longer needed.

Dr Gammoh said: “If we find that this ‘self-recycling’ mechanism is important in glioblastoma, we could use this information to develop new treatments for the disease that target this mechanism.”

Cancer Research UK awards career development fellowships to outstanding scientists to support them in establishing their own independent cancer research group.

World leaders in research have been discovered through the charity’s fellowship awards and the work they produce is of the highest international quality.

Karen Noble, head of training and fellowships for Cancer Research UK, said: “To ensure we make a real difference in our fight against cancer, particularly hard-to-treat cancers like brain tumours, we need to recruit the best people and help them develop at every stage of their career.

“Our fellows make crucial discoveries that increase our fundamental understanding of cancer, and help develop innovative new cancer medicines, tests and treatments.”

Earlier this year, the charity announced £3.7m funding over five years for another project at its Edinburgh Centre on improving the understanding of the biology of brain 
tumours.

The grant is to support scientists in taking samples from patients’ tumours during surgery and then growing these brain tumour cells in the lab to study the faulty molecules that underpin the disease. This will help them discover better ways to diagnose and treat brain tumours.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com