A leading expert in childhood cancer at The University of Nottingham says a decrease in the UK’s spend on brain tumour research has come as a shock after 20 years of campaigning to get this rare but deadly form of cancer out of the ‘orphan’ disease category.
Professor David Walker from the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre was reacting to the news that the total national spend allocated to brain tumours has decreased from 1.54% in 2014 to just 1.37% last year 1.
The revelation comes after the House of Commons Petitions Committee’s report earlier this year, ‘Funding for research into brain tumours’, which stated that ‘successive governments have failed brain tumour patients and their families for decades’.
Health Minister George Freeman MP had formally accepted the Petitions Committee report, which has been described as ‘damning’; recognised the ‘extraordinary call from people for the disease to be given higher priority’ and announced a new Task and Finish working group of clinicians, charities and officials to discuss how to address the need for more brain tumour research.
The National Cancer Research Institute’s figures also came as a shock to patients, carers, activists, charities and politicians coming together at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on brain tumours on Wednesday 13 July 2016.
Professor Walker said: “The University of Nottingham identified the need for additional funding in this field of research in 1997 when it launched fundraising for the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre, a Brain Tumour Research member organisation.
“Now, nearly 20 years later we are still seeking to raise awareness of the plight of children and young adults who run the very high risk of death and disability from this group of diseases that can strike them down”.
Professor Walker shared the Centre’s experience of its work in Nottingham over the last 20 years, in particular how it led the development of the HeadSmart early diagnosis initiative, and will be seeking the support of Nottingham South MP Lilian Greenwood.
Among those speaking at the meeting was Helen Jones, MP for Warrington and Chair of the influential Petitions Committee, who said: “The Committee will be keeping a close eye on the progress of the working group. It seems that the Government has not yet accepted some of our important recommendations and has failed to recognise that the complexities of brain tumours mean that they do not always benefit from general cancer research.”
Sue Farrington Smith, Chief Executive of the charity Brain Tumour Research, who has provided the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group since 2005, said: “It was an incredible milestone for the brain tumour community to shine a light on this issue with the unprecedented success of the original e-petition, the Petitions Committee report and subsequent Parliamentary debate. But we can’t stop there. We look forward to playing a key role in the Government working group to drive the Petitions Committee’s recommendations forward.
“We are calling for the national investment in brain tumour research to be increased to £30-£35 million per annum. Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer yet just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.”
1 Brain Tumour Research’s analysis of the total national spend on cancer research allocated to research into brain tumours reveals a decrease of 0.17%, from 1.54% in 2014 to just 1.37% in 2015. Annual statistics sourced from: http://www.ncri.org.uk/what-we-do/research-database/
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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham has 43,000 students and is ‘the nearest Britain has to a truly global university, with a “distinct” approach to internationalisation, which rests on those full-scale campuses in China and Malaysia, as well as a large presence in its home city.’ (Times Good University Guide 2016). It is also one of the most popular universities in the UK among graduate employers and was named University of the Year for Graduate Employment in the 2017 The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide. It is ranked in the world’s top 75 by the QS World University Rankings 2015/16, and 8th in the UK for research power according to the Research Excellence Framework 2014. It has been voted the world’s greenest campus for four years running, according to Greenmetrics Ranking of World Universities.
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