Edinburgh Cancer Research

Longer-term survival analysis in patients with glioblastoma

Edinburgh researchers provide important insights on longer term survival at population-level in patients with glioblastoma: July 2020

MRI images of glioblastoma (from Kao et al. BioMed Res Int: 970586).
MRI images of glioblastoma (from Kao et al. BioMed Res Int: 970586).

Brain cancer survival is low, and has changed little in over a generation, which is why many people regard brain tumours as cancers of unmet need. Cancer Research UK Edinburgh Centre is very active in brain tumour research and has been recognised as the CRUK Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence. Recently, our investigators performed an important systematic review and analysis of longer-term survival in patients with glioblastoma.

Glioblastoma is an aggressive type of cancer that can occur in the brain or spinal cord and accounts for more than 50% of all primary brain tumours. It can occur at any age, but tends to be more frequent in older adults. People can experience headaches, seizures and weakness. Despite surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy, glioblastoma remains an incurable disease.

In 2005 a landmark clinical trial demonstrated that the addition of the drug temozolomide to radiotherapy provided an additional survival benefit to patients diagnosed with glioblastoma. Sadly, no major new additions to the treatment armamentarium occurred since then.

In a study titled “Longer-term (≥ 2 years) survival in patients with glioblastoma in population-based studies pre- and post-2005: a systematic review and meta-analysis” and published in the journal Scientific Reports, the team of Edinburgh researchers used meta-analysis of real-world data to demonstrate that benefits of temozolomide treatment, initially observed in clinical trials, indeed translated into better outcomes in clinical practice at population level. Overall estimates of survival among patients with glioblastoma, although still low, have at least doubled since 2005 to 18% at 2 years and 11% at 3 years. Unfortunately, longer term survival remains poor and there appears to be a lack of improvement in 5-year survival. Thus the study emphasises even further the need for better understanding of the pathophysiology of glioblastoma and necessity to develop more effective therapeutics.

The work was driven by the clinical research training fellow Michael Poon in the laboratory of Doctor Paul Brennan. It was supported by the Cancer Research UK Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence Award.

Related Links:

Article in Scientific Reports: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-68011-4

CRUK Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence website: https://www.ed.ac.uk/cancer-centre/cruk-brain-tumour-centre-of-excellence

Doctor Paul Brennan Group website: https://www.ed.ac.uk/cancer-centre/research/brennan-group

Information about brain tumours: https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/brain-tumours

Information about glioblastoma: https://www.thebraintumourcharity.org/brain-tumour-diagnosis-treatment/types-of-brain-tumour-adult/glioblastoma/