A Cure Can't Wait

We have invested heavily in forward-thinking, outcomes-orientated and patient-focused research. We have insisted on global collaboration to speed up the time it takes to make new discoveries and turn them into treatments and cures.

Over the past five years, our ‘A Cure Can’t Wait’ Research Strategy has had the following impact:

New discoveries: 231 research publications sharing new knowledge on brain tumours; 53 new research tools and methods, and 10 new research databases to enable global collaboration and efficiency

Turning discoveries into better treatment: 11 new medical products, interventions and clinical trials; 5 software and technical products

Stimulating more research: 87 research collaborations and partnerships plus £89m of additional funding into brain tumours from others

We set an ambitious target

Invest £20 million from 2015 to 2020, later increased to £32.5 million

How did we do?

Invested £38 million up to March 2020

Analysis of our research commitment

We cannot detail all of the research impact outlined above, but below is a case study of our pioneering research and further examples to explore.

Funding the first global research centre for low grade childhood brain tumours: The Everest Centre

Across three institutions and led by Dr David Jones, an expert in molecular biology, The Everest Centre is a ground-breaking international initiative established in 2017 to propel our understanding and improve treatment of paediatric low grade brain tumours.

So far, The Everest Centre team have:

  • Identified and analysed DNA “tags” that distinguish between types of low grade brain tumours. As a result, they have discovered a new type of potentially targetable paediatric low grade brain tumour
  • Outlined why pilocytic astrocytomas grow relatively slowly. These tumours secrete molecules that cause them to enter a “hibernation” mode
  • Collaborated with a pharmaceutical company who will provide a drug that targets specific factors in tumour cells for the upcoming LOGGIC (LOw Grade Glioma In Children) clinical trial
The Everest Centre

Click to see a highlight of our impact in each priority area from our ‘A Cure Can’t Wait’ Research Strategy:

We have accelerated research progress through centralised collection of, and access to, brain tumour tissue samples

Dame Tessa Jowell

A highlight: We helped found, and have invested £2.8m in, The Tessa Jowell BRAIN MATRIX, a pioneering clinical study and biobank, providing a platform to trial precision medicines.

The BRAIN MATRIX, running from 2019 to 2023, provides a common infrastructure across at least ten key treatment centres in the UK, with all participants starting by having their tumour tested for its biological and genetic profile. This platform can then be used for additional clinical trials, while not being unduly expensive, meaning more people can be offered potentially beneficial drugs.

Through the implementation of BRAIN MATRIX, we will work to deliver routine biobanking for adults with a brain tumour, to further accelerate research and improve both survival and quality of life for those affected.

We have sought to diagnose brain tumours earlier and more accurately. Our funded research has created new tools to improve the accuracy of a brain tumour diagnosis

Dr Gelareh Zadeh

A highlight: Our funded research has created a tool to predict meningioma recurrence.

Dr Gelareh Zadeh and her team analysed over 500 meningioma samples to find DNA changes that result in tumour growth. Combined with clinical images, this molecular data gives a five-year recurrence score, from which a software tool has been developed.

This tool is now freely available to doctors globally and helps to predict the outcome for those affected by meningiomas, define appropriate treatments and ultimately reduce the harm caused by brain tumours.

We have developed understanding of the genetics and biology of tumour development to identify effective new treatments

Leaders of the research programme

A highlight: Our INSTINCT research programme is a collaborative network to beat aggressive childhood brain tumours.

The network, led by Professor Steve Clifford, Professor Chris Jones and Dr Darren Hargrave, brings together world-class researchers in genetics, biochemistry and drug discovery to understand some of the most lethal childhood brain tumours and translate this knowledge into the clinic. So far, the team have:

  • Identified key genetic markers in high-grade medulloblastoma
  • Identified weaknesses in atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumours, and started to test potential drugs
  • Identified drugs that may be effective against a specific mutation called ATRX, found in childhood high grade gliomas
  • Leveraged further funding of over £3 million to continue the programme

We have translated laboratory discoveries into new and effective treatments that increase survival and quality of life

The Brain Race

A highlight: Initiatives such as the Brain Race have catalysed progress towards finding new, effective treatments for brain tumours.

In collaboration with Resonance Philanthropies and the Center of Advancing Innovation (CAI), The Brain Race was an open innovation contest and opportunity for 15 start-up companies to launch promising to high-impact solutions to defeat brain tumours.

With access to CAI’s White House-accredited accelerator training programme, including technology commercialisation classes and expert advice, 124 teams were hosted and the 15 winners were announced in April 2020.

We continue to enhance care and quality of life for everyone affected by a brain tumour, including patients and carers

Pink Drink

A highlight: Through activities such as campaigning for the ‘Pink Drink’ to be accessible throughout the UK, we have enhanced care and quality of life in meaningful and practical ways, ensuring that those affected receive the best treatment, irrespective of postcode.

For people with a high grade glioma, surgery is the major line of treatment. 5-AminoLevulinic Acid (5-ALA, or the ‘Pink Drink’) is a pink dye that helps neurosurgeons to achieve a higher percentage of successful tumour removal, which is associated with longer survival. With 5-ALA, the whole tumour is removed in 70.5% cases, up from around 30% without. With total removal of the tumour, recurrence is delayed and survival is significantly improved.

Previously, access to the Pink Drink depended on postcode, but as a result of our research and many years of campaigning, 5-ALA was rolled out across all 27 neurosurgery units in the UK in 2018, and recommended by NICE as part of their updated guidelines for brain tumours.