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Professor Chris Jones heads the ICR’s Glioma Team whose research aims to find the genes which drive the development of childhood brain tumours.

He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists, and is Biology Lead for the International Society for Paediatric Oncology European High Grade Glioma Working Group.

“Our ambitions within the laboratory are to turn some of our laboratory-based hypotheses into real, molecularly-based treatments for malignant paediatric gliomas, and to see, at last, real progress being made in the survival of children with these dreadful cancers.”


Key achievements for the team:

In recent years, the team has built up an international reputation in the field. Their major achievements include:

  • The earliest comprehensive molecular studies of paediatric glioblastoma and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG), with subsequent landmark characterisation of >1000 such tumours, and >200 infant glioma. This highlighted subgroup-specific biological characteristics and drug targets.
  • Discovery of mutations in the novel cancer gene called ACVR1 in DIPG, subsequent development and testing of novel drugs, and generating data to support the first clinical trials of a true childhood brain tumour-specific target.
  • Unravelling of the mechanism by which histone G34 mutations cause paediatric glioblastoma, and are derived from neurons, rather than glial cells.
  • Detailed mapping of different regions of DIPG samples, and identification of how tumour cells ‘co-operate’ with each other to drive cancer development.
  • Prof Jones is the Biology Lead for the largest randomised clinical trial in non-brainstem paediatric HGG (HERBY) and the UK arm of the largest stratified trial ever undertaken in DIPG (BIOMEDE), as well as Preclinical Lead of the international CONNECT clinical trials network in childhood brain tumours.

Q&A with Yura Grabovska, Bioinfomatician

“I am truly grateful to the Ollie Young Foundation for their generous support of my research. I find it extremely motivating that my research is working towards better outcomes for children like Ollie –  and bringing hope to their families.” – Yura Grabovska

Yura, talk us through a normal working day:

A typical day involves meetings with members of the team to discuss various ongoing work and the rest of the time is taken up by running analyses and visualising data. Within the team we also run training sessions and we also hold journal clubs regularly to discuss new publications important to our work.

How does your work contribute to the ICR’s mission to make the discoveries that defeat cancer?

My work directly contributes to understanding cancer complexity, exploring tumour heterogeneity and evolution and contributing to partnerships with clinical research.

Can you describe the project you are working on?

I work on a number of projects ranging from whole-genome CRISPR experiments, molecular profiling of patient tumours, to analysis of microscopy imaging data, and single-cell omics. The challenge I seek to overcome is how to integrate that data in order to get a detailed and complex understanding of the biology of high-grade glioma.

How will the support of the Ollie Young Foundation help your research?

The support of the Ollie Young Foundation will help support our efforts to explore the biology of high-grade glioma tumour found in locations in the brain where these tumours are less commonly diagnosed and have complex molecular characteristics.  Our work seeks to carry out high quality and in-depth analysis of genetic and epigenetic features of these tumours in order to identify new therapies and further understand what drives these aggressive cancers.

How would you describe your work in a tweet?

I analyse and visualise the complex data members of my team work really hard to generate. I also work to give them the tools to empower them in their own analyses and in helping them understand the data to ask more meaningful questions.

What are you most proud of?

I recently managed to get work I carried out as part of my PhD degree published in Nature Comms as well as joint-author a large international consensus study of a different paediatric brain tumour – atypical teratoid / rhabdoid tumour.

Who do you collaborate with at the ICR and elsewhere?

Making a difference in paediatric high-grade gliomas requires excellent and innovative science that can stand up to scrutiny, and working in a collaborative, open environment. Our collaborations require us to understand and value the contributions of many individuals as well as empower others by providing resources and skills to support their work.  As part of our regular work, we collaborate with many other teams both in the UK and internationally. Within the ICR, we collaborate with the Stratified Medicine Paediatrics (SMPaeds) programme. We also work nationally as part of the INSTINCT High-Risk Childhood Brain Tumour network which includes the ICR, Great Ormond Street Hospital and Newcastle University. We regularly collaborate with hospitals and research institutes in all over the world which really highlights the collaborative global effort in tackling high-grade gliomas.

What made you want to work at the ICR?

Teams working at the ICR generate world-class research that significantly contributes to understanding and therapy in many cancers. The facilities and quality of work as well as the opportunity to collaborate with and contribute to large multi-national research efforts is very impressive. The close ties to clinical trials, drug development and the patients that are ultimately affected by the cancers we seek to
study constantly makes you feel like your work is having a real-world, positive impact. I have learned so much since I have started working here.

What’s your favourite part of your job?

My favourite part of my job is definitely the people in my group. I feel extremely lucky to be working in such a supportive and friendly team. Their hard work challenges me to keep up and match pace and because the team is so close knit and helpful it doesn’t often feel like work. I am keenly interested in helping others understand bioinformatics approaches and empower them to carry out their own analyses.

What do you do to wind down?

Before the pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns I regularly visited my local bouldering gym. Having only moved to London in October 2019, I’m keen to explore the secrets of London and with my friends I’ve been going on walking tours, as well as sampling the great food, drink and night life of the city. I love animals and the outdoors and can’t wait until I can travel freely again.

What are people least likely to know about you?

I can identify and differentiate most of the UK-native bat species by their call.