This article was taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/may/01/brain-tumour-research-to-get-18m-injection
By Nicola Davis
The sum is part of a £25m boost in funding by Cancer Research UK for brain cancer over the next five year
Brain tumour research is to get an £18 million injection of funding to aid projects ranging from exploring how such cancers begin to developing new ways to treat them.
More than 250,000 people worldwide, including 11,400 people in the UK alone, are diagnosed with a brain tumour every year and often the prognosis is bleak. According to Cancer Research UK figures, just 14% of those diagnosed survive for 10 years or more, while less than 1% of brain tumours are preventable.
The disease was recently thrown into the spotlight after Tessa Jowell, the former Labour minister, revealed she has terminal brain cancer.
Among the reasons why treatments have proved elusive, experts say, are that brain tumours show a lot of variation from person to person, are often diagnosed at an advanced stage, and are often resistant to treatments used for other cancers, with the blood-brain barrier also preventing some drugs from reaching the cancer. Also, as the cancer is in the brain, it is not possible to remove large amounts of tissue during surgery.
“The human brain has about 100bn neurons and each of those neurons connects to tens of thousands of other neurons – it is incredibly complex,” said Dr Iain Foulkes, CRUK’s executive director of research and innovation. “What we are trying to do here is understand one of the most complex diseases known to humankind, which is cancer, in the most complex of organs. So it is a big challenge.”
And there are other difficulties.
“The hard reality, which is a good thing, is that brain tumours are relatively rare, particularly in children,” said Prof Richard Gilbertson, director of CRUK’s children’s brain tumour centre of excellence at the University of Cambridge. He said that means it is difficult to conduct clinical trials in one country because there are often not enough patients, while international trials are hindered by regulatory and logistical hurdles.
The new brain tumour funding, a joint endeavour between Cancer Research UK – which is contributing £15 million – and the Brain Tumour Charity, are designed to encourage researchers to tackle six key areas of research, including finding new ways to detect brain tumours and develop better ways to study them, given that treatments that appear promising often fail when transferred from the lab to patients.
The new funding is part of a £25m boost in funding by CRUK for brain cancer research over the next five years, and is in addition to the £13m spent on the disease every year already by the charity. The successful projects will be announced later this year, with up to £10m available for each project. While the projects will be headed by UK researchers, they are expected to involve international collaborations.
The charity is has also set up two brain tumour centres of excellence in the UK for research into the disease, and to help train neuro-oncologists – specialists who from early in their career focus only on diagnosis and treatment of brain tumours, and who are a rarity in the UK.
While Gilbertson stressed brain tumour patients currently have good care in the UK, he said neuro-oncologists can help to direct research and bridge the gap between the lab and patients. Dr Adrienne Boire, a neuro-oncologist at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said there are other benefits too.
“A neuro-oncologist is really there from the moment of diagnosis until the very end,” she said. “We are the continuity of care throughout.”