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Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer

Priorities for cancer research in Scotland

by Nick Perkins

The Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group on Cancer (CPGC) recently released the results of its inquiry into the priorities for the future of the cancer treatment, support and research in Scotland.

This Inquiry was called after the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Health & Sport, Jeane Freeman MSP announced a pause of Scotland’s current cancer strategy, to allow for a refresh of priorities.

Brain Tumour Research submitted evidence to the CPGC’s inquiry and was pleased to see some of our priorities included in the final report.

These included the need for future Scottish cancer strategies to have an explicit focus on improving the survival rates for less survivable cancers, such as brain tumours. We were glad to see the CPGC’s report reference researching new treatments as a means of improving survival rates.

We are also very supportive of the CPGC’s suggestion that less common cancers should be treated at ‘centres of excellence’. Not only does this make sense considering the size of Scotland’s brain tumour patient population, but it is also useful for facilitating research, as things like data/tissue collection and recruitment to clinical trials can more easily be achieved via groups of centralised specialists.

The report also recommends that the Scottish Government prioritise workforce planning. This is something else we welcome, currently the workload of Scottish neuro-oncology and neuro-surgery consultants means they have little time available to undertake research. For some, their contracts permit them very little time away from seeing patients to undertake research, which is hampering innovation in the brain tumour sector.

More broadly, the CPGC’s report calls on the Scottish Government to use data about cancer to plan services, provide holistic support assessments for all cancer patients and address disparities related to socio-economic factors like poverty.

Brain Tumour Research was proud to contribute to the CPG’s report and supports its recommendations. We also understand Scotland’s refreshed cancer strategy should give research more prominence by embedding across every aspect of the plans, rather than it being considered in isolation.

This is particularly important as integrating research throughout all stages of cancer care, whether it is diagnosis, treatment or aftercare is imperative if we are to improve outcomes for brain tumour patients and their families.

We will be discussing the topics raised by the CPGC’s report as we engage with key Scottish decision-makers and politicians in 2020.

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