In a new three-year project, Professor Andrew Peet, Reader in Paediatric Oncology and his team at the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Children's Hospital, are using new technology to provide more personalised, targeted treatments for children with brain tumours.

Prof Andrew Peet

The study, which is jointly funded by children’s charity Action Medical Research and The Brain Tumour Charity, will look at using minimally invasive scans rather than surgery to help determine the prognosis of children with brain tumours.

The study builds upon existing research from the team, Prof Peet explains:“This new project is moving another step further in using Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy  in combination with MRI to measure the chemical profile of a tumour. “The team has established that some of the chemicals measured in the tumours using the MRS are strong predictors of survival.

“In this new project, the team will be extending the original work to see which chemicals are the key ones to look for and follow in the tumours. “They will also be working on finding other new chemicals that may be able to help tell doctors how well a child may do or not."

The team believes this approach will lead to increased survival in children with the most aggressive tumours and will also reduce the risk of permanent, disabling side effects.

The study is much needed, as brain tumours are the most common solid tumour to develop in children. For every three children diagnosed with brain cancer, one will die.

Children who do survive are likely to suffer lifelong neurological complications. But this study will help ensure that children are given the right treatment in the least invasive way.

Joey's story

This life changing research could help improve the outcome for children with brain cancer such as one of Professor Peet’s patients, nine year old Joey.

When Joey was just four years old he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

His parents Darren and Kathryn explain: "Joey started to wake during the night retching and then woke in the morning with a headache. Initially the doctor thought it was acid reflux but the prescribed medicine didn’t help with his symptoms. Then Joey started to get lethargic. When he first got up in the mornings, he could only crawl, not walk. And he started to walk in a strange way – it just didn’t look right.”

After a 10-hour operation, tests revealed that the tumour was cancerous. Joey then endured radiotherapy, chemotherapy and a second operation.“Getting all the tumour out is the thing,” Darren explains. “But the specialists work very, very delicately to avoid permanent damage to surrounding brain tissue.”

Thankfully, after all the treatment, Darren and Kathryn were told that Joey’s long term prognosis was very good.

After Joey’s second operation, Darren and Kathryn were told that, given all of the treatment Joey had, the long term prognosis was very good.

The family has nothing but praise for the doctors involved in Joey’s care: “The neurosurgeon Mr Rodrigues, radiotherapist Helen Woodman and Joey’s consultant Professor Andrew Peet were all amazing.”

With Joey now nine, big brother Ben aged 12 and little sister Hannah three, Darren and Kathryn have a busy but happy family life. They are deeply grateful for the care and expertise that their son received.

And Joey says that when he grows up, he wants to be a doctor.