A British medical team led by Stephen Gill, Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Bristol, has made a major breakthrough in the treatment of the deadly Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Gliomas (DIPG) brain cancer which affects young people.

DIPG is currently untreatable and is found in children and young adults aged under 20. In the UK there are around 40 new cases every year. The average lifespan post diagnosis is just nine months and most children die within 18 months.

This outcome has not improved during the past 60 years, due almost entirely to a lack of research and resources. However, in what is being described as a ‘compassionate programme’ at the Harley Street Children’s Hospital, 13 children aged 3-18 had their lives extended by over six months. Two of the children, one from Canada and the other from the Czech Republic, have survived even longer and are still alive today, nearly two years after treatment.

The biggest obstacle to attacking the tumour has been the blood-brain barrier (BBB), an almost impenetrable tissue structure which prevents germs from entering the Pons, the brain’s inner sanctum where the DIPG tumour is found. Stephen Gill, has spent years developing a drug delivery system that bypasses the BBB for the targeted delivery of drugs. The convection enhanced drug delivery facility consists of four catheters which are inserted into the skull and guided to the tumour to deliver controlled quantities of drug directly to it.

None of the children who took part in the programme showed any ill effects from the treatment. The full details were published in the February edition of the International Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Professor Gill is now raising funds to further develop this convection enhanced delivery system for use in a formal trial which he hopes will take place within 24 months. Funding Neuro, is working alongside The Lyla Nsouli Foundation, who have already pledged £2m, to raise the £2.5m required for the trial.

“We are very pleased with the results from the compassionate programme and hope this will soon lead to a life extending therapy for children with this devastating disease. There are many challenges when treating this type of tumour, so it’s very positive that we have been able to overcome a number of these and can now move forward. The next step is to conduct a formal clinical trial which is kindly supported by Funding Neuro and The Lyla Nsouli Foundation.” Professor Gill

“Professor Gill has dedicated years of intensive research and work to get to this stage and our Foundation is committed to supporting his groundbreaking work.” Nadim M Nsouli, Trustee of The Lyla Nsouli Foundation