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Government funding for research into brain tumours

What happened to the £40m of Government funding that was committed to research into brain tumours in 2018?

Researchers work in a lab. There is £40 million in Government funding available for brain tumour research
In the lab

Dame Tessa Jowell’s legacy sparked government funding

Following the death of Dame Tessa Jowell on 12 May 2018, the Government set out clear plans for investing in research into brain tumours. They promised to double the government research fund to £40m over the following five years, implement wide-spread use of 5-ALA and improve access to clinical trials.

Six years later, only around £15m of that £40m has been spent.

To take urgent action in righting this wrong, the Government and NIHR has today announced new initiatives for investment in research into brain tumours to use the funds left from the original £40m.

The Brain Tumour Charity has been one of the consistent voices in the sector calling for the money to be allocated and, as a result, today we are attending a roundtable with Government, the National Institute of Health and Care Research (NIHR) and other key strategic partners to hear first-hand how the money will be allocated.   

Dame Tessa Jowell with family. Following her death, £40 million in government funding was allocated to brain tumour research
Tessa Jowell with her daughter Jess and grand-daughter

What are the Government funding initiatives?

Today, the Government has announced a new ‘funding call’ for the evaluation of novel therapies and optimisation of brain tumour treatments.  

They want this to be delivered through a national consortium that will develop a network for the delivery of brain tumour clinical trials. The aim will be to try and make sure the most promising research opportunities are made widely available to adult and paediatric patients.  

It will also aim to support more early-career researchers who want to focus on brain cancer, to ensure new researchers are brought into – and stay – in our field.  

There will also be a new funding call specifically looking at research into quality of life, including care, support and rehabilitation.  

Finally, there will be new Tessa Jowell Allied Health Professional (AHP) research fellowships available to try and build the evidence base on the importance of rehabilitation for people with a brain tumour. This fellowship will fund, train and support two early-career AHPs to research how we can improve quality of life for people as well as build a new generation of highly-skilled, research-active healthcare professionals in the brain tumour field. 

Is this good news?

Close-up of a scientist's hands using a syringe to fill test tubes
Researcher Ola Rominiyi at work

At The Brain Tumour Charity, we’re pleased that there is a continuing focus on research into brain tumours and a commitment to look at different ways of making sure the money committed back in 2018 is spent. 

We know more clinical trials are needed and the plans announced today to use the money to fund new deliveries of clinical trials are vital to get closer to cures for all brain tumours.

However, we know that this cannot happen in isolation to truly transform the research landscape. There are systemic barriers to setting up successful clinical trials that also need addressing, alongside investment.  

Our role here is essential: ensure that our community’s voice is represented at these discussions and that we can contribute to the direction of travel about what will have the biggest possible impact.

We are delighted to see a clear commitment to ensuring that the money promised in 2018 will be spent. Our attendance at the roundtable today is the first step in working alongside Government, the NIHR, the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission and other key partners at a series of workshops that will ensure this money is spent where it will have the biggest possible impact, by bringing new treatments to patients through innovative clinical trial models and quality of life research.”

Dr Michele Afif – Chief Executive, The Brain Tumour Charity

What’s The Brain Tumour Charity doing?

Our attendance at the Government roundtable today is the first step in working alongside Government, the NIHR, the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission and other key partners in ensuring this money is spent, and spent well. We look forward to being part of the ongoing workshops and contributing to the accompanying guidance to bring together the community.   

We’re already working to improve aspects of the research landscape we know are a significant problem. One of the biggest difficulties in research into brain tumours is the lack of “translational” research. We want to be able to translate the incredible findings that happen in laboratories, all the way through to becoming medicines that help people. Currently, there are too many barriers in the way, meaning that many of these findings don’t make it beyond the laboratories.

We’ve recently opened a new Translational Research fund and pledged up to £2.2m per project to tackle these barriers. One of the most important things we believe the Government could do would be to join us in investing in the “translational” work stream of research to ensure more breakthroughs make it out of the lab, through to clinical trials and onto the patient pathway. 

We also believe that quality of life research is incredibly important for people with brain tumours. It’s encouraging to see this reflected in today’s announcement, but we don’t yet know how much will be funnelled towards this research. As funding leaders in this field we are looking forward to working with Government and the NIHR on this call, and working together to maximise the opportunities it creates.