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

A week in campaigning by Hugh Adams

by Hugh Adams

In last week’s blog, I said keep an eye on our Latest News pages and if you did then it read a bit like my diary and by Sunday, I will have posted seven research and campaigning posts in a row! This goes to show the importance we place on what we are all trying to achieve together – remember we are a research funding and campaigning charity.

This week the Chairs and Co-Chairs of six cancer-related APPGs wrote to Boris Johnson supporting the #OneCancerVoice plan to recover cancer services, highlighting the devastating impact that Covid-19 has had on them, and imploring him to consider the ‘12-Point Plan to recovery’ set out by leaders across the cancer sector and backed by 24 cancer charities ( including Brain Tumour Research). Derek Thomas MP the Chair of the APPG on brain tumours was a co-signatory to this letter which said “As the Chairs of 6 All-Party Parliamentary Groups related to cancer, we firmly believe that despite Covid-19, cancer outcomes in this country can improve and catch up with others in the world. But making this happen will require support from the highest levels of Government. Without a clear national vision and plan, progress on cancer survival could stall.”

A promising development was that yesterday ( Thursday) saw the final telephone conference call for cancer charities held by NHS England – these have been a constant during the pandemic and have at times been pretty gloomy affairs but have recently become increasingly optimistic – it is a coincidence that the final one of these calls occurred in the same week as the final Downing Street briefing but I think they are symbolic of us entering a new phase of the pandemic

This new phase means cancer is back on the agenda enabling the work of the #onecancervoice campaign, plus what the AMRC have been doing this week to raise awareness of the jeopardy medical research charities are facing, to reach a wide audience (see Wednesday’s piece in The Guardian here).

Also, this week was an Opposition day debate in the Commons which had a distinct cancer focus – we monitor all such debates, recording who made contributions and could, therefore, be potential stakeholders in our campaigning work – if you want to have a look at what was actually said the Hansard report is here. At the end of the debate responding to concerns in the debate, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Jo Churchill stated that:

“During the outbreak, the Secretary of State and I have regularly met the national cancer director, Dame Cally Palmer, to discuss progress not only on how we were dealing with cancer during the crisis but on restoring cancer services as quickly as possible. We will keep a laser focus on that.”

I like that phrase “laser focus” – that is what we will continue to keep on the cause of brain tumour research.

Finally, this week I am both proud and thrilled to report on recently published news from our Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) research centre.

Microglia are a type of neuroglia, or glial cell, located throughout the brain and spinal cord. They are also scavenger cells, (cells responsible for detecting, engulfing and destroying pathogens – bad guys!) and act as one of the main forms of active immune defence in the central nervous system – they are the good guys.

GBM initiating cells have been found to trigger a reaction in the microglia that hinders effective T‐cell infiltration, proliferation and immune reactivity, thereby contributing to tumour immune evasion and promoting tumour growth. A group of molecules, known as mTOR pathway, play a crucial role in this. Essentially GBMs are turning the good guys around them, in the tumour microenvironment, bad!

The extension from this work is that targeting mTOR pathway in microglia could be a way to turn these molecules back on to doing what they should be doing and halt tumour progression.

The team at QMUL will now be further examining the mechanisms involved, looking at how to target the pathway that the GBM cells interfere with, in pre-clinical models, which if successful would pave the way for future clinical trials. Professor Silvia Marino, the report lead author, says this shift of focus from the tumour to its microenvironment, and the possibilities it could offer is “realistically exciting”

The paper is published in a leading high impact journal, The EMBO Journal, and you can read more here.

I hope you read this with a sense of hope – I do and if ever there were a time to emphasise the need for sustaining research funding into brain tumours it is now - it feels that at last the dial is being turned but we desperately need support as we navigate the choppy waters of the pandemic. Should this blog have motivated you to do so, you can donate to support our work, just click here.

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