Our progress

Our funding and research have led to many important and exciting discoveries in the battle to beat brain tumours. Researchers have identified genes that are linked to the development of tumours, identified new drug targets and organised clinical trials to test new treatments in patients. We know that brain tumours are complex and we have a long way to go, but every discovery brings us closer to defeating this disease. With your invaluable support, we are ready to step up the search for a cure.

Improving diagnosis

Since the launch of the HeadSmart Early Diagnosis campaign in 2011, we have helped reduce the time taken to diagnose childhood brain tumours from 9.1 weeks to 6.9 weeks.

The campaign, developed as a result of research by Professor David Walker at the University of Nottingham, aims to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of brain tumours among healthcare professionals and the public.

Discovery of key gene offers hope in astrocytoma

Research carried out by Professor Peter Collins at the University of Cambridge and Professor Denise Sheer at Queen Mary University of London has significantly enhanced our understanding of astrocytomas, a common childhood brain tumour.

Professor Collins and his team made the landmark discovery that a gene known as BRAF is associated with the formation of astrocytomas, leading to the development of new diagnostic tests and clinical trials investigating drugs which block the effect of the BRAF gene.

Furthermore, Professor Sheer discovered a specific mutation to BRAF that is unique to low grade astrocytomas. The team have also been investigating whether 'small molecule' drugs can be used to treat this tumour type.

Improving care and quality of life

Professor Colin Kennedy from the University of Southampton investigated how treatment for medulloblastoma and other childhood brain tumours has an impact on quality of life in survivors. The study highlighted many important issues for brain tumour survivors such as a lack of special educational needs provision and rehabilitation support.

Importantly, this research has led to changes in the way that quality of survival is assessed and has resulted in a number of clinical trials now including quality of life as a measure of success.

Detecting changes in low grade gliomas

Dr Jeremy Rees from the Institute of Neurology at UCL, has developed a new MRI scanning technique that identifies when low grade gliomas begin to transform to more aggressive, high grade tumours. This new method will allow patients who are at a high risk of developing a high grade tumour to be identified at an earlier stage, meaning that doctors can intervene sooner.

This technique has become part of the standard procedure for monitoring changes in brain tumours over time.

Genetic testing allows personalised treatment for glioma

Both high and low grade glioma patients have benefited from research carried out at University College London into the genetic make up of these tumour types. The work, led by Professor Sebastian Brandner, has led to the development of new genetic tests, meaning that tumours can be diagnosed more accurately and patients given the most appropriate treatment.

These genetic tests have been adopted as good practice across hospitals in London, and the researchers are now working to get them used routinely nationwide.