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Our Scientific and Lay Advisors

In order to ensure that we fund only the highest quality research, we have formed two Scientific Advisory Boards (SABs) which are made up of internationally renowned scientific and medical experts that work in different areas of cancer research and social science.

The lay members of our SABs represent people personally effected by a brain tumour, ensuring that our community's interests remain at the forefront of our grant award process.

The two boards, Biomedical SAB and Quality of Life SAB, are responsible for the assessment and rating of applications for research funding and making recommendations to our Board of Trustees. Find out a little about them below.

Biomedical Scientific Advisory Board (Biomed SAB)

The Biomedical SAB assess applications from grant rounds that focus on scientific, clinical or translational research. The funding applications they assess primarily work towards achieving our goal of Doubling Survival.

Professor Richard Gilbertson, MRCP, PhD, FMedSci


Professor Richard Gilbertson

Professor Richard Gilbertson has been working in paediatric oncology as both a clinician and a researcher for almost 25 years, earning his MBBS and PhD degrees from Newcastle University in 1992 and 1998. In 2000, he moved to St Jude Children's Research Hospital, USA where he served as the Co-Leader of the Neurobiology and Brain Tumour Program and founding Director of the Molecular Clinical Trials Core, before being appointed as the Comprehensive Cancer Centre Director, Executive Vice President, and Lillian R. Cannon Endowed Chair in 2011. In 2014, he was appointed as the Scientific Director of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

Professor Gilbertson now sits as the Li Ka-shing Chair of Oncology, Head of Dept. of Oncology and Director of the Cambridge Cancer Centre at Cambridge University.

His research has helped to identify that there are different sub-types of medulloblastoma and ependymoma – two of the most common kind of childhood brain tumour. This has been translated into numerous diagnostic tests and innovative clinical trials for children with cancer.

Professor Steve Clifford, PhD

Vice Chair

Professor Steve Clifford

Professor Steve Clifford is appointed a Professor of Molecular Paediatric Oncology at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research (NICR), Newcastle University. He is currently the lead for the Paediatric Brain Tumour Research Group.

Professor Clifford has held academic positions at the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and Birmingham. He completed his doctoral training in Cancer Molecular Biology at Newcastle University. Prior to this he received a Bachelor in Science (Honours) in Applied Biology at the University of Wales, Cardiff.

Professor Simona Parrinello, PhD

Professor Simona Parinello

Professor Simona Parinello is a Group Head at the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences and an Honorary Reader at Imperial College London. After completing her undergraduate degree in Italy, Professor Parinello went on to complete her PhD in biochemistry from the University of California at Berkeley, USA.

Professor Parinello is currently investigating glioblastomas, one of the most common and aggressive type of adult brain tumour. Her work includes understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that underpin adult nerve cell development and how they drive glioblastoma growth when they are deregulated.

In particular, she is studying how healthy cells and glioblastoma cells communicate with each other to help the cancer cells escape a tumour via blood vessels. Through this work, Professor Parrinello aims to identify new drug targets that could help prevent the spread of tumour cells.

Dr Susan Chang, MD

Dr Susan Chang

Dr Susan Chang is the Director of Neuro-Oncology at University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), specialising in the treatment of adult brain tumours. She is the principal investigator and co-investigator on more than 15 active clinical trials evaluating the use of a number of treatment interventions including chemotherapy, targeted drugs, immunotherapy and convection enhanced delivery of new drugs.

In addition to research into developing novel and effective therapeutic drugs, her research has expanded to include the evaluation of new imaging techniques that may influence treatment selection for patients. She was recently the co-recipient of a Specialised Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the National Cancer Institute, for evaluating the role of magnetic resonance spectroscopy in diagnosing tumours and evaluating therapeutic interventions.

Dr Paul Northcott, PhD

Dr Paul Northcott

Dr Paul Northcott is a leading paediatric cancer genome scientist, currently holding a post as Principal Investigator in the Department of Developmental Neurobiology at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

The Northcott lab is interested in solving the molecular and cellular origins of the childhood brain tumour medulloblastoma. Coupling cutting-edge next-generation sequencing and integrative computational approaches with in vivo functional studies, they aim to comprehensively understand the genetic, epigenetic, and transcriptional landscapes underlying medulloblastoma heterogeneity and developmental biology.

Dr Lucy Stead, PhD

Dr Lucy Stead

Dr Lucy Stead is a University Academic Fellow and group leader in Glioma Genomics at Leeds Institute of Medical Research, St James’s University Hospital.

She was awarded a PhD in Bioinformatics from the University of Leeds in 2010 and, as a trained computational cancer biologist, moved into neuro-oncology research in 2013. Her research involved the use of high-throughput sequencing to characterise brain tumour genomes and transcriptomes, and the integrated analysis of datasets to further understand the development and progression of brain cancer. 

Dr Marcel Kool, PhD

Dr Marcel Kool

Dr Marcel Kool is the deputy of Paediatric Neuro-oncology at the German Cancer Research Centre (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, Germany.

He heads up the Embryonal Brain Tumour and Preclinical Research Group where particular research focus is on the DNA and RNA changes that are found in different paediatric brain tumours. He is using this data on tumour changes to help inform new more targeted treatments for children.

Professor Rick Livesey, PhD, MB BChir

Professor Rick Livesey

Professor Rick Livesey is the Professor of Stem Cell Biology and deputy head of Developmental Biology and Cancer at UCL Great Ormond Street’s Institute of Child Health.

Professor Livesey was awarded both a PhD and a degree in Medicine from the University of Cambridge in 1997. After this he focussed on a career in research and rose to the position of Senior Group Leader at the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute at the University of Cambridge.

In 2018 he moved to the Institute of Child Health. Since then, Professor Livesey and his research group have been progressing their research about how brain development is controlled, with an emphasis on stem cells, and applying these learnings to paediatric brain tumours.

Topic of stem cells remains popular with both researchers and the public alike because of the potential benefits that people propose. Having an expert of Professor Livesey’s calibre on our SAB will help ensure that all grant applications involving development and stem cells will continue to be assessed appropriately.

Professor Colin Watts, MBBS, PhD, FRCS(SN)

Professor Colin Watts

Professor Colin Watts is Professor of Neurosurgery at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and Chair of the University of Birmingham's newly established Brain Cancer Program.

Professor Watts qualified from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and trained in neurosurgery in Cambridge and London where he completed his specialist training in 2004. As a practising neurosurgeon Professor Watts has established a dedicated neurosurgical-oncology research clinic to support clinical trials and collaborative translational research.

Dr Mark Gilbert, MD

Dr Mark Gilbert

Dr Mark Gilbert is a senior investigator and chief of the Neuro-Oncology Branch at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and has recently been named Deputy Director of the Centre for Cancer Research at the National Cancer Institute. He is also the founder and former leader of the Collaborative Ependymoma Research Network (CERN), a consortium studying ependymoma tumours by supporting basic research, clinical trials, patient outcomes research and educational efforts in North America and Europe. Additionally, he was recently named the Co-Chair of the Brain Tumour Committee in the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG).

Dr Gilbert's research interests centre on developing new treatment strategies for patients with malignant primary brain tumours. His focus has been in the area of clinical research, emphasizing both large, multi-institutional studies for malignant gliomas, as well as smaller clinical trials that are designed to advance therapies for less common cancer.

Professor Duane Mitchell, MD, PhD

Professor Duane Mitchell

Professor Duane Mitchell is Co-Director of the Preston A. Wells Jr. Center for Brain Tumor Therapy and Director of the University of Florida Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program. He leads a comprehensive immunotherapy brain tumor program that is focused on translational research. 
Professor Mitchell’s research interests include expanding upon personalized cancer treatment approaches and offer unique clinical options at University of Florida for adult and children diagnosed with high-grade brain tumours

Professor Cynthia Hawkins, MD, PhD, FRCPC

Professor Cynthia Hawkins

Professor Cynthia Hawkins is a paediatric neuropathologist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Canada. Her practice involves both surgical and autopsy neuropathology and includes neuro-oncologic, neuromuscular and neurodevelopmental disease. She is also a principal investigator at the Arthur and Sonia Labatt Brain Tumour Research Centre and a Professor at the University of Toronto.

Professor Hawkins' research interests include molecular pathogenesis and therapeutics for paediatric astrocytoma, in particular diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) and the identification and clinical implementation of novel prognostic and therapeutic markers for paediatric brain tumours.

Dr David Adams, PhD

Dr David Adams

Dr David Adams is a biologist whose expertise lies in experimental models of human cancer. Dr Adams received his PhD in Physiology and Medicine at the University of Sydney, Australia and then moved to the Sanger Institute in 2001. He is now the Senior Group Leader of Experimental Cancer Genetics at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute.

Dr Adams manages a team of nearly 20 scientists with expertise in diverse areas of science. His research group aims to understand the biological function of genes that influence cancer development, particularly skin cancer and colorectal cancer. The group work together to answer questions in cancer genetics, cancer evolution and cancer immunology.

Dr Gerry Thompson, MBBS, PhD

Dr Gerry Thompson

Dr Thompson is a Senior Clinical Lecturer in Radiology at the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences. Neuroimaging is essential to brain tumour research: it enables non-invasive patient preparation prior to surgery, allowing treatment response monitoring & development of new treatments.

He is passionate about finding better ways to image brain tumours, giving surgeons the best information possible and giving their patients the best chance of successful surgeries and meaningful follow-up.

Lay Advisory Board Members

Our commitment to our beneficiaries is crucial to us and as such, we feel that it is important to allow our community the opportunity to use their personal experience of the disease to contribute to the research grant awarding process. Hence, we also have five lay representatives who are a part of the SABs to provide their expert-by-experience perspective on whether the applications that we receive for funding are important and/or feasible for patients. Find out a little more about them below.

Deborah Crossan

Deborah Crossan

Deborah's daughter Ella was diagnosed with a medulloblastoma at the age of three and has suffered greatly at the hands of her treatment. Despite this she is a remarkable young girl and along with her siblings has been involved with The Charity for many years, attending a number of our Family Days. Following all the support the family received, Deborah wanted to give something back.

She is passionate about helping finding a cure for this dreadful disease but also improving the quality of life of those affected. Having been a member of the Research Involvement Network for a number of years, Deborah was honoured to be a part of our SABs to provide her expert-by-experience perspective to contribute to the funding of our research.

Christina Brincat

Christina Brincat

Christina works as a lawyer in London and has a young son who was diagnosed with a low grade brain tumour. She knows the difficulty of getting a correct and early diagnosis and is a proud supporter of our HeadSmart campaign. Christina was eager to be part of the SABs, representing patients' views when considering funding for prospective research projects.

She wishes for her experience of diagnosis, treatment and long term effects of brain tumours to help inform future funding decisions, ensuring that they serve the best outcomes for families.

Professor Celine Boehm

Professor Celine Boehm

Celine is a Professor of Physics at Durham University. Along with her father, she was one of the main carers for her mother who had a meningioma. During the fourth and last occurrence of the tumour, Celine realised that some of the treatments and care proposed by the medical teams were extremely inadequate or very hard to put in place. The treatments had a huge impact on her family making end of life care for her mother very difficult.

Improvements in diagnosis and well-being of brain tumour patients (particularly at the end of their lives) therefore constituted her strong motivations to join the SABs and contribute to our research funding process.

Louise Edwards

Louise Edwards

Louise was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2011 and underwent surgery to remove the tumour. After receiving a high level of support from The Charity, she wanted to give something back whilst helping others who had been affected. She believes research is key in identifying the causes of brain tumours and discovering treatments that can improve the quality of life of patients.

Being a part of the SABs is important to Louise as it means helping to shape the direction of future research funding and to be able to give important input from a patient perspective.

Rachel Rathbone

Rachel Rathbone

Rachel's husband Alex was diagnosed with a pilocytic astrocytoma when he was 22, subsequently having a number of surgeries to remove the tumour. Unfortunately, Alex contracted ventriculitis and spent two months in neuro-ICU during which he had over 20 more operations including a craniotomy, consequently resulting in neurological deficit. Now at 31, Rachel and Alex are getting used to life together again with their beautiful 3 year old daughter.

Whilst it's been a challenging few years for the family, Rachel wished to join the SABs to find a silver lining to their experience by contributing to future research in the hope that somewhere along the line, a cure for this devastating disease can be found.

Other Advisors

These scientists and clinicians are part of a wider group of people who are key to achieving our goals of doubling survival and halving the harm. They fill various roles by sharing their knowledge and experience with us and we are indebted to them for this.

Dr Antony Michalski, MB ChB, MRCP, PhD, FRCPCH


Dr Antony Michalski

Dr Antony Michalski has been a paediatric consultant at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) since 1993 where he leads a multi-disciplinary team committed to delivering the best outcomes and patient centred care.

Until very recently Dr Michalski chaired the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) Children's Cancer and Leukaemia central nervous system subgroup, promoting research into childhood brain tumours through development of clinical trials. Dr Michalski has also published 34 papers in peer reviewed journals and has written book chapters and reviews. He holds national grants for research into childhood brain tumours.

Dr Paul Brennan, MB BChir, MRCS (Ed), PhD

Vice Chair

Dr Paul Brennan

Dr Paul Brennan is a Senior Clinical Lecturer in Neurosurgery and Honorary Consultant Neurosurgeon and works out of both the University of Edinburgh and NHS Lothian. Dr Brennan is leading on projects we fund looking at the transition of low-grade tumours into high-grade tumours, as well as on a project awarded as part of our Adult Early Diagnosis initiative.

“Our research aims to understand the reasons why some adult patients take longer than others to be diagnosed with a brain tumour. The team will propose simple guidelines that will help GPs better identify which patients have a brain tumour and hopefully lead to rapid referral to a specialist. This research could transform the lives of brain tumour patients."

Professor Terri Armstrong, PhD, ANP-BC, FAANP

Professor Terri Armstrong

Professor Terri Armstrong has taken up a post at the National Institute of Health in the USA. She will be continuing the work she did as a professor in the Department of Family Health at the University of Texas Health School of Nursing where she held the school's prestigious Dunn Distinguished Professorship in Oncology Nursing. She also was concurrently an Advanced Practice Nurse in the Department of Neuro-Oncology at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Professor Armstrong has worked in the field of neuro-oncology since 1992, with research focuses on symptom assessment and management and myelotoxicity.

Professor Armstrong has has also held the position of vice president of the Society of Neuro-Oncology, an international multidisciplinary organisation for those involved in research and care of neuro-oncology patients.

Mr Michael Jenkinson, MB ChB, PhD, FRCSEd (Neuro.Surg)

Mr Michael Jenkinson

Mr Michael Jenkinson is a Clinical Senior Lecturer in Neurosurgery at University of Liverpool, as well as a Consultant Neurosurgeon at The Walton Centre. Mr Jenkinson specialises in surgery for brain tumours including awake craniotomy, intra-operative brain mapping, pineal and intraventricular tumours.

Mr Jenkinson's research interests include the quality of life and cognitive functioning in patients with incidental meningioma and those undergoing surgical resection and radiotherapy of intracranial meningioma as well a running an international meningioma trial (ROAM: radiation versus observation for atypical meningioma) funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR).

Mr Jenkinson is the chair of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) brain tumour clinical studies group, a founding member of the British-Irish Meningioma Society and sits on the Society of British Neurological Surgeons (SBNS) academic committee.

Dr Rachel Cox, MB ChB, MRCP, MA, MD

Dr Rachel Cox

Dr Rachel Cox is a consultant paediatric oncologist based at University Hospitals Bristol. Her specialities include the late effects of childhood cancer treatment (Aftercare); treatment of all paediatric solid and brain tumours; supportive care of childhood cancer patients; Transition and management of chronic illness; Palliative care in cancer.

Dr Cox is also a member of a number of professional organisations including the Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group's late effects sub group and the European Society for Paediatric Oncology (SIOPE).

Professor Filomena Maggino, PhD

Professor Filomena Maggino

Professor Filomena Maggino is an Associate Professor of Social Statistics at Sapienza University of Rome. She serves as: Editor-in-Chief of Social Indicators Research journal, President and co-founder of the Italian Association for Quality-of-Life Studies (AIQUAV) and is a past-president of the International Society for Quality of Life Studies (ISQOLS).

She is a member of several international associations, including Eurostat's Expert Group on Quality of Life and many editorial boards of scientific journals and scientific committees.

Professor Maggino's research interests include social indicators, statistics and political communication as well as quality of life, quality of society and well-being measurement and analysis.

Dr Diane Puccetti, MD

Dr Diane Puccetti

Dr Diane Puccetti is a leading paediatric hematologist-oncologist in Madison, Wisconsin and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Meriter Hospital and University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics. She received her medical degree from University of Toledo College of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years.

Dr Puccetti is the Director of the Caring for Life clinic and leads the late effects clinical research programme at the University of Wisconsin Hospital. The goals of the clinic include detecting and treating problems related to being a childhood cancer survivor, facilitating transition of medical care to an adult care system and sharing ongoing research findings with childhood cancer survivors.

Professor Maggie Watson, PhD, Dip C Psych, AFBPS

Professor Maggie Watson

Professor Maggie Watson holds honorary appointments of Clinical Psychologist at the Royal Marsden Hospital, and a Professorship at University College London, UK.

Professor Watson was a Research Fellow at Kings College Medical School, University of London specialising in psychosocial aspects of cancer and was appointed Consultant Clinical Psychologist in 1991 at the Royal Marsden Hospital. She was Head of the Royal Marsden Hospital's Psychological Medicine Department for the period 2003 – 2010 and is author or editor of seven books and 190 publications.

Professor Watson co-founded the British Psychosocial Oncology Society in 1982 and is a past president of the International Psycho-oncology Society. Her clinical research interests include psychological interventions including cognitive behavioural therapy as well as cancer and families.

Dr Linda Dirven, PhD

Dr Linda Dirven

Dr Linda Dirven completed two Masters degrees, one in Human Movement Sciences at the VU University in Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2007), and one in Sports and Exercise Science at the London Metropolitan University in London, United Kingdom (2008). She received her PhD from the VU University Medical Center (2012) based on her thesis “Benefits and risks of targeted treatment in rheumatoid arthritis". Between 2009 and 2014, she also obtained her registration as Epidemiologist B at the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC), Leiden, the Netherlands.

Dr Dirven currently works as an epidemiologist at the departments of Neurology and Radiation Oncology of the LUMC, with a focus on Neuro-oncology. The main focus of her research is on the evaluation of clinical outcomes in brain tumour patients, such as health-related quality of life, functioning in daily life, neurocognition, epilepsy, and end-of-life care, as well as on the development and validation of (patient-reported) instruments to measure these outcomes.

Professor Susan Short, MBBS, PhD

Professor Susan Short

Professor Susan Short is Professor of Clinical Oncology and Neuro-Oncology, Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology Wellcome Trust. She has a specialist interest in treating adults with poor prognosis brain tumours as well as optimisation of radiotherapy for brain tumour patients. She trained at King's College London and then worked at Guy's and St Thomas's Hospitals and The Royal Marsden Hospital, where she completed specialist training in Clinical Oncology in 2001. 

Her PhD in radiation biology was awarded in 1999 by University of London. Since then she has worked in clinical and translational neuro-oncology, as Senior Lecturer at University College London between 2007 and 2012 and since April 2012 as Professor of Clinical Oncology and Neuro-Oncology at the University of Leeds.

Dr Mark Kieran, MD

Dr Mark Kieran

Dr Mark Kieran now worked in the pharmaceutical sector, but was previously Director of Paediatric Medical Neuro-Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Associate Professor at Boston Children's Hospital.

Dr Kieran's research interests have two major areas of focus. The first in the identification of novel molecular targets in pediatric brain tumors, especially astrocytomas (low-grade, high-grade and DIPG) and personalized therapies to treat these tumors both more effectively and with less toxicity. The second area of research is to better understand the tumor microenvironment.

Dr Kieran has been instrumental in advising on our initiative to establish a Research and Innovation Centre for Paediatric Low Grade Brain Tumours.

Dr Nicholas Foreman, MD

Dr Nicholas Foreman

Dr Nick Foreman is a leading paediatric neuro-oncologist and holds the position of Seebaum/Tschetter Chair of Paediatric Neuro-Oncology at Children's Hospital Colorado. He has a key interest in the development of clinical protocols for children with difficult to treat brain tumours and his lab interests concentrate on the development of novel therapies with glial tumours.

Dr Foreman runs a lab working to develop new therapies for resistant brain tumours in children. They do small trials internally; then those are taken to the Paediatric Oncology Experimental Trials Consortium, which is comprised of eight institutions. They are looking at the role of micro-RNAs in brain tumours and how they regulate activity within the cell.

Prof Barry Pizer

Professor Barry Pizer, MBChB, PhD, FRCPCH

Professor Barry Pizer is a Consultant Paediatric Oncologist at Alder Hey Children's Hospital. He is a prominent member of the national Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG) and has sat on the Executive group of the CCLG. He has a particular interest in tumours of the central nervous system in children and young people, and is a member and has chaired the CCLG CNS Tumour Division. He was Chair of the CCLG Supportive Care Working Group and founded both the CCLG Mouth Care Group and Good Ideas Group.

He previously chaired the International Society of Paediatric Oncology-Europe Brain Tumour Group and has led on a number of national and international clinical trials, particularly for medulloblastoma, the most common malignant brain tumour in childhood.

Professor Pizer is committed to helping to provide support for paediatric oncology in developing countries (PODC) and established the CCLG PODC Group. He has helped develop paediatric oncology units in Nepal, Cameroon and Bosnia.

Dr Uri Tabori

Dr Uri Tabori

Dr Uri Tabori is an active physician in the treatment of children with cancer, focusing particularly on those with brain tumours at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) in Toronto, Canada. Based on his clinical and research interests, he participates in the development of systems for early detection and intervention in individuals determined to be at high-risk of developing brain tumours. This includes patients with neurofibromatosis type 1 and 2, Li-Fraumeni syndrome and mismatch repair genes.

The Tabori lab is focused on combining biological and translational research in paediatric oncology. Specifically, they are interested in studying mechanisms underlying brain tumour immortality and recurrence in the context of predisposition to cancer.

Dr Sam Blackman, MD, PhD

Dr Sam Blackman

Dr Sam Blackman is a physician-scientist and paediatric haematologist-oncologist who focuses on the clinical development of new therapeutics for cancer.

He is currently the Head of Clinical Development at Silverback Therapeutics and was previously the Senior Medical Director at Juno Therapeutics where he focused on the development of immunotherapy treatments for leukaemia. Previously, he was the Head of Translational Medicine at Seattle Genetics where he oversaw integration and planning for early clinical testing of new immunotherapy treatments.

Dr Blackman's research interests include oncology drug development, translational research in oncology, pharmacology and molecular biology.

We're raising the benchmark

We've been recognised as Charity of the Year 2018 for our pioneering approach, innovative research solutions and, above all, our community-centred approach to everything we do.