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Astonishing brain tumour research wins the BIAL Award in Biomedicine 2023 worth 300,000 Euro

PRNewswire February 21, 2024

PORTO, Portugal, Feb. 21, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — A team of researchers from Germany, the USA, the UK, and Norway won the third edition of the BIAL Award in Biomedicine, a 300,000 Euro prize promoted by the BIAL Foundation, which seeks to recognise a work in biomedicine of exceptional quality and scientific relevance published in the last ten years.

Lead researchers of the winning team of the BIAL Award in Biomedicine 2023 promoted by the BIAL Foundation. Photo credits: Thomas Kuner - Hendrik Schröder, Heidelberg University Hospital; Frank Winkler - berlin-event-foto.de; Varun Venkataramani - Carina Kircher and Gerald Bendner.

Led by researchers Varun Venkataramani (first author), Frank Winkler, and Thomas Kuner (senior co-authors) from the University of Heidelberg in Germany, the study “Glutamatergic synaptic input to glioma cells drives brain tumour progression”, published in Nature in 2019, represents breakthrough research important for understanding human cancer, specifically glioblastomas, a very aggressive type of brain tumour with an average survival time of just 1.5 years, even with state-of-the-art treatment.

In this work, the authors showed that glioblastomas and other incurable gliomas can integrate themselves into the function of the brain, and that input from healthy brain cells, normally used in functions such as thinking and memory, drives the progression of gliomas. This is possible by formation of synapses between neurons and cancer cells.

For the president of the Jury, “these findings are a major and surprising advance in the understanding of how brain cancer progresses, by describing a new communication channel between neurons and the tumour and by suggesting specific avenues for treatment”.

This paper shows that cancer cells cannot merely proliferate – they have to hijack healthy biological processes and integrate themselves into the normal function of tissues. “Nowhere is this more blatant – and surprising – than in the brain tumours studied in this paper”, says Ralph Adolphs.

The award-winning research also provides a new explanation for why epilepsy and tumour progression are often observed together: epilepsy may be a cause, rather than a consequence of the tumour progression.

The winning paper, chosen from 70 nominations, is co-authored by 29 researchers from Heidelberg University, Heidelberg University Hospital, German Cancer Research Center, University Hospital Mannheim, Otto-von-Guericke University (Germany), Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (USA), University of Glasgow (UK), University of Bergen, and Haukeland University Hospital (Norway).

It should be noted that two of the scientists who won the 2021 edition of this Award, Katalin Karikó, and Drew Weissman, were awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries that enabled the development of vaccines based on mRNA to prevent COVID-19.


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SOURCE BIAL Foundation

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