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Announcing funding of pioneering glioblastoma research

The Brian Cross Memorial Trust will fund ‘Future Leader’ Dr Spencer Watson’s three year glioblastoma brain tumour research.

We’re delighted to announce that The Brian Cross Memorial Trust have committed a £180,000 grant to The Brain Tumour Charity to fund Dr Watson’s three-year glioblastoma research at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, as part of our Future Leaders programme.

Dr Watson’s research personally resonated with the lived experience of Trustee Will Magee, aged 30, a financial consultant based in Putney with a keen interest in endurance sports. Will was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2015 after a head injury that led to a CAT scan and has now had brain surgery twice.

The research funding includes the incredible £150,000 raised by Todd Hooper (a trustee of The Brian Cross Memorial Trust), from the 2020 The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge that took place in January.

Will said; “With Todd’s incredible Atlantic row, we had the option of donating to Dr Watson’s research project into glial scars. This project was intriguing to me because of the result of my last surgery, I was unaware of the prevalence of scar tissue being a caveat of tumour growth.

“This research will be fascinating to see why this is the case and how it can be prevented. There is potential for this to impact myself yes, but I would like to see if it can prevent someone else from having to have a second craniotomy…I would prefer to row the Atlantic!”

Promising avenues of research include the development of therapies to target the healthy cells that are ‘corrupted’ by tumours to ultimately aid their growth and progression. This is where Dr Watson’s work steps in. He is a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Professor Johanna Joyce, a leader in the field of the tumour ‘microenvironment’, including of brain cancers. He’s investigating how current treatments can leave behind small niches of ‘scar tissue’ which may represent sanctuaries for tumour cells to hide in, and eventually grow again to form new tumours. Along with other researchers in the Joyce lab, he is looking for ways to stop these sanctuaries forming, so that more of the tumour can be eradicated.

Dr Watson said: “My research focuses on how the brain tumour microenvironment responds to current therapies, and how those responses can lead to tumour recurrence. It’s my hope that by repurposing currently approved drugs to target the microenvironment of brain tumours, we can improve how patients respond to standard treatments in the near future, not 10 years from now.

Being one of the Future Leaders is vital to my goal of making a meaningful contribution to improving outcomes for glioblastoma patients. The connections and communication with other Future Leader fellows creates a collaborative network that will help all of us reach our goals.

Will said: “I was incredibly lucky to have a tumour in a location where an operation was available, others are not so lucky. I wanted to give back to the cause, for all the support and desperate need in R&D.

“Through Rosie and The Brian Cross Memorial Trust I was able to, and successfully completed an Ironman in the year following my first craniotomy. I raised £5k an amount I am incredibly proud of. The fact I am able to go back to work and live a ‘normal’ life I am reminded every day of how lucky I am in the patient journey.”

Despite subsequent tumour re-growth and a second craniotomy in 2018, and continued treatment, Will and the trustees and supporters of The Brian Cross Memorial Trust continue to support and recognise the urgent need for continued research into brain tumours.

“I am passionate about raising awareness and funds for research and development of better treatment. Rosie and Todd Hooper share my passion for raising awareness and funds for the treatment of brain tumours.

“As good friends, The Brian Cross Memorial Trust has been a fantastic vehicle for us. Todd and his Atlantic challenge is a huge inspiration for me in what can be done both physically and having the drive towards a funding target.

“I am lucky enough to have The Brian Cross Memorial Trust as a platform to impact change in treatment has been invaluable to my ongoing treatment, and to do it with friends who feel the same is fantastic.”

Dr Watson said: “As a researcher, having your research validated by the support of such a prominent charity is hugely encouraging. It also creates the sense that everyone who supports that charity, including cancer patients and their families, are placing their trust in you, and that is incredibly motivating.

“That is why charity trusts are so important to advancing cancer research, because they have the independence to take chances, and promote the next generation of cancer research leaders.”

Dr David Jenkinson, Interim CEO at The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “We are incredibly inspired by the unwavering commitment of The Brian Cross Memorial Trust, by Will, Todd and Rosie in all they continue to do to defeat brain tumours.

“The funding of Dr Watson’s vital research will be an amazing achievement and testament to Brian and his legacy.

“In this challenging year we are especially proud and grateful to have The Brian Cross Memorial Trust’s support to help fund world-class glioblastoma research to accelerate a cure for this devastating disease.

“The funding of research projects such as Dr Watson’s is key to The Brain Tumour Charity’s aim to find new and kinder treatments for glioblastomas.”

This year, Todd Hooper, a trustee of The Brian Cross Memorial Trust, took part in The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge, rowing over 3,000 miles, raising over £150,000 and taking The Brian Cross Memorial Trust’s overall fundraising achievement to £1 million.

Join The Brian Cross Memorial Trust’s free webinar to hear more about Todd’s Atlantic Row and the research the Trust will be supporting.