Publish date: 09 July 2021

A UCLH-led trial for patients with brain cancer has recruited more UK participants than ever before for a study of its kind.

In seven centres around the UK, including UCLH, 119 patients were recruited in just over two years to the IPI-GLIO trial, the UK’s first large scale, charitably funded, immunotherapy trial for NHS patients recently diagnosed with glioblastoma brain cancer. This represents the largest ever number of UK patients in a brain cancer clinical trial.

UCLH consultant medical oncologist, Dr Paul Mulholland, designed the phase II clinical trial and is the lead investigator. He also leads the UCL Glioblastoma Research Group.

The trial is funded by The National Brain Appeal, which is dedicated to raising funds for the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) and supported by the UCLH NIHR Biomedical Research Centre.

Following standard treatment for glioblastoma of surgery (where appropriate), radiotherapy and chemotherapy, patients recruited to the trial were given ipilimumab, a drug that has seen significant improvements in survival rates for people with melanoma skin cancer. The patients will be followed up over the next 18 months and the findings will be presented to the American Society of Clinical Oncology in May 2023.

Glioblastoma is the most common type of primary, malignant and very aggressive brain tumour with around 2,200 cases diagnosed each year in England (and around 3,200 across the UK). The average survival time is around 15 months, with fewer than 10 per cent of patients alive five years after diagnosis following standard treatment.

Consultant medical oncologist, Dr Paul Mulholland, lead investigator for the IPI-GLIO trial funded by The National Brain Appeal. Photo credit Jane Ferguson Photography.jpg
UCLH consultant medical oncologist, Dr Paul Mulholland.
Photo credit Jane Ferguson Photography.

Dr Mulholland said: “It cannot be underestimated how significant The National Brain Appeal’s decision to fundraise for this trial has been. I am so grateful to everyone who has donated and those continuing to fundraise.”

Looking beyond this trial, Dr Mulholland continued: “Now that we have recruited the 119 patients to the IPI-GLIO trial we have planned a programme of trials so this work can continue. We have established a Glioblastoma Research Group and laboratory at UCL Cancer Institute. We are bringing together the newest drugs from the pharmaceutical industry together with the latest developments in scientific research to try to find a cure for this devastating disease.”

The IPI-GLIO trial is sponsored and managed by the University of Oxford. The pharmaceutical company Bristol Myers Squibb also contributed to part funding the study and provide the drug ipilimumab.

As well as UCLH, The National Brain Appeal's funding enabled the trial take place in six other centres around the UK, in Cambridge, Edinburgh, London’s Guy’s Hospital, Manchester, Middlesex and Oxford.