Experts call for innovation for research into brain tumours

Thursday 22 February 2018

The Government has today called for greater innovation in brain tumour research, as it publishes a landmark review into brain cancer research in the UK

The new report by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) Task and Finish Working Group found that one of the barriers to finding breakthrough treatments for the disease is the lack of high quality research applications for specialist funding.

Drawing on the expertise of clinicians, charities, patients and government advisers, the Working Group explored how to increase the level and impact of research in brain tumours.

The Task and Finish Working Group came to a series of conclusions:

  • Dedicated brain tumour research centres are an effective way of expanding and developing research capacity and capability
  • The current processes for collection, storage and sharing of brain tumour tissue, blood samples and clinical data are not optimal for the latest research requirement
  • Appropriate drugs, originally developed for other conditions but with potential for the effective treatment of brain tumours, should be 'repurposed' where the evidence supports it
  • Sub–speciality training for neuro-oncology should be included in the curriculum and appropriate time should be ring-fenced to allow consultants to carry out research
  • Funders should highlight that applications focused on brain tumour research are particularly welcome. These include studies on the development of pre-clinical models, tumour detection, radiotherapy, surgery, drug development, and clinical trials
  • The UK brain tumour and neurosciences research communities should work together to explore opportunities for research collaborations
  • Patient health data, with the appropriate permission, should be available for use in research to accelerate the development of new treatments
  • More coordination and cooperation within the brain tumour research community is essential to accelerate progress in the field

Chair of Task and Finish Working Group and DHSC Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Chris Witty said:

“This is a hugely complex and challenging issue, but one that everyone around the table is dedicated to seeing progress on. This report is an important staging post on a considerable journey which we all agree needs to be made. It is heartening to realise this opportunity to catalyse change.

“Since we formed the Working Group, we have already seen the launch of exciting initiatives in brain tumour research, including Cancer Research UK's new £25 million investment, with many more in development."

Dr David Jenkinson, Chief Scientific Officer for The Brain Tumour Charity, said:

“This report provides an overview of the problems that are hindering progress towards a cure for brain tumours.

“For the sake of each and every family affected by the disease, it must be a springboard for more effective action – including greater collaboration to boost global research."

The Task and Finish report comes ahead of today's Brain Cancer Initiative Roundtable which was convened following a speech by Baroness Tessa Jowell, who shared how she had been diagnosed with a highly aggressive form of brain tumour – high-grade glioblastoma multiforme – which typically has a prognosis of just 9-18 months.

The roundtable, to be chaired by the Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Baroness Tessa Jowell, will involve representatives from leading cancer, academic and pharmaceutical organisations.

Speaking ahead of the Brain Cancer Initiative Roundtable, Health Minister Lord O'Shaughnessy said:

“This is an opportunity to harness the expertise of leading figures in brain tumour research, development and treatment so we can formulate a blueprint for the future that has the ability to transform lives.

“We must all work closely together in the coming months and years to build on the issues surrounding this devastating illness, so we can see improved survival rates and a greater quality of life for those living with brain cancer."