Metabonomic profile in supratentorial low-grade & anaplastic astrocytomas

3-year PhD studentship from Sept 2006-2009


Investigators: Federico Roncaroli, Kevin O’Neill, Bob Homapour (PhD student)

Lay summary: Malignant transformation of astrocytic tumours corresponds to alterations in the structure of the tumour and in the behaviour of tumour cells. Unfortunately, when malignant changes are visible at the examination with the conventional techniques such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) they are already widespread and therefore impossible to stop with the available treatment options. Metabolic changes conversely occur earlier in the process of transformation but their identification is challenging.

Combining a technique for sampling the fluid between using tumour cells that is called microdialysis and a very innovative technique of analysis called metabonomics, we are investigating the changes that may occur during the process of malignant transformation.  Such changes are then traced at the periphery by examining blood, the fluid that lies around the brain that is called cerebrospinal fluid.

Metabonomics is a very powerful technique of analysis of body fluids and tissues, based on the use of Mass Spectroscopy. Metabonomics is very sensitive and can detect and characterise the variations of several thousand of substances in normal conditions and diseases, particularly if data are obtained from different fluids and tissues and then analysed together. We hope that this study will contribute to the understanding of the metabolic mechanisms that underlie malignant transformation, devise a practical means by which this transformation can be assessed and monitored in the clinical setting and identify molecules that can be targeted by new treatments.