My research into the next treatment for migraine

By: Hannah Creeney, Migraine Trust PhD student

I am delighted to be able to use this blog to introduce myself and my research to the migraine community. My name is Hannah Creeney and in September 2019 I started a PhD at King’s College London funded by The Migraine Trust. For the next three years I will have the privilege of investigating the potential role of the neuropeptide amylin in migraine.

This is exciting for several reasons. As some of you may know, another neuropeptide called calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) has been shown to be released during migraine attacks, a discovery that has led to the successful development of CGRP targeted therapies to prevent migraine. My research aims to build on this success as amylin is part of the same ‘family’ of peptides as CGRP and has related functions. Additionally, amylin is a satiety hormone and is involved in appetite regulation, which we already know is a factor in migraine.

More personalised migraine research

My PhD research aims to understand if and how amylin contributes to the mechanisms underlying a migraine attack. This is important because we don’t actually fully understand what causes a migraine attack. My hope is that as we begin to uncover this mystery, future migraine research will become much more personalised and we’re able to learn a lot more about why some patients respond to specific treatments when others do not.

My findings could help discover new options for migraine treatment that lead to new and more personalised therapies for patients – so it’s a very promising project to be a part of!

Doing research that has a clear and discernible link to patient impact is very important to me. After studying biochemistry at undergraduate level and specialising in neuroscience for my Masters degree, I knew I wanted to do research that could directly impact people’s lives. I was drawn towards migraine because I have always known so many people who live with this condition and I have always been aware of the significant impact it can have on people’s lives.

Lack of funding for migraine research

But before officially entering into the migraine research field, I didn’t realise how severely underfunded migraine research is. I just assumed that a condition that was so widespread and so disabling would be at the top of the list for funding. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Migraine is actually one of the least publicly funded neurological conditions in the UK and around the world, often receiving a fraction of the funding that other brain diseases receive relative to its prevalence and economic impact. As a small example, I don’t know of any other PhD studentships in neurosciences specifically ring-fenced for migraine other than the one I applied for, whereas I saw many for other neurological conditions.

There are so many unexplored areas of migraine research with nowhere near enough funding available to be able to investigate them all. As someone who wants to see new treatments developed for migraine patients to use, this is very frustrating. I am hopeful though that the recent successes of CGRP therapies will spur more interest, enthusiasm and funding for migraine research from public and private funders alike.

Like most people, my work has been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19). I’m not able to do any laboratory research at the moment but I am working on other parts of my thesis that I can do from home and it’s also given me an opportunity to write my first blog!

I hope to be able to restart my research as soon as possible with my lovely colleagues at King’s College London. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and wanted to say a big ‘thank you’ to all of the people who have donated to The Migraine Trust and made this work possible. Without you, this project wouldn’t be happening. So thank you, please stay safe, and I promise to keep you all updated on different aspects of my research on this blog as my work progresses.

The Migraine Trust funds and promotes research to improve understanding of migraine, encourage more researchers into the field, discover new treatments, and ultimately to find a cure. You can find out more about our research programme here.