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

Doorstep drops, shadow minister criticises, closing the gap and Epictetus – our week in campaigning

by Hugh Adams

As many of us look to next week as being the return to some sense of normality ( school runs, back in the office etc) it is worth reviewing the impact of the pandemic so far and I don’t think that all of it will be viewed as being negative when it comes to cancer care.

Of course, we are hugely sympathetic to those of you who have had treatment plans altered and suspended, the immediate halt of clinical trials was clearly problematic and the catastrophic loss of income will have consequences for years to come in terms of charitable medical research funding. We mentioned this many times in the media, in briefings to Parliamentarians and we joined coalitions such as the AMRC in voicing these concerns. However news from the Government that chemo doorstep drops help to keep cancer patients safe shows that,  as Dame Cally Palmer, director of cancer for the NHS in England says: “The NHS has also fast tracked modern, more convenient services that help to keep patients and staff safe – from video consultations to chemotherapy delivered to patients’ doors.” Yes, innovation, new ways of thinking quickly implemented; it can be done and that should give us hope. The old way of doing things can be challenged and when it comes to brain tumours, faster diagnosis, easier access to consultants and therapeutics and, crucially, a route from the scientist’s bench to the patient’s bedside that is absolutely the fastest and most effective it can be  - together could we make that part of the COVID legacy?

In other developments, the Government has announced the creation of the UK’s new public health agency: the ‘National Institute for Health Protection’ which will replace Public Health England in many of its key functions.

The latest Charity Sector Tracker has been published by the Charity Finance Group in partnership with Pro Bono Economics and the Institute of Fundraising. A survey of 455 charities found that 19% have already made redundancies and that 23% plan to make further cutbacks once the government's furlough scheme comes to an end. That number jumps to 44% among the UK's largest charities. Amongst large charities 8% anticipate reducing their headcount by 25-50%.

You can access the full survey here and it provides a comprehensive, if sobering, picture of the challenges facing the charitable sector.

Some thought-provoking stuff from shadow charities minister Rachael Maskell MP in this article as she accuses the Government of throwing 'loose change at the bottom of the pocket' at the charitable sector rather than offering proper funding to deal with the pandemic.

The government has been criticised by sector figures for the size of the £750m support package it offered to charities during the pandemic, as well as the length of time it took to reach frontline organisations.

Maskell also criticised the 2016 decision by a Conservative government to move the Office for Civil Society (the OCS is responsible for the charitable sector) from the Cabinet Office to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, saying the government had “outsourced [the OCS] somewhere into a corner of government”.

She said: “We want to see the voluntary sector front and centre, and I think Labour showed its efforts well by putting it in the Cabinet Office, where I think it rightly belongs.”

She also said it was important for the charities minister to be a member of the House of Commons rather than the House of Lords - the current minister is Baroness Barran.

Brain Tumour Research is supportive of the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce (LSCT) which this week released a report calling for focus, prioritisation and investment in order to speed up the detection and diagnosis of the UK’s deadliest cancers.

The LSCT represents six less survivable cancers, lung, liver, brain, oesophageal, pancreatic and stomach, with an average five-year survival rate of just 16% due to a legacy of neglect and underfunding. Together, these ‘less survivable cancers’ make up half of all common cancer deaths in the UK.

The report makes a number of recommendations to close the deadly gap on cancer inequality and can be accessed here. This story was featured in our Latest News page.

Across the pond now and if Joe Biden reaches the White House, he will have more direct experience with cancer than most presidents. His eldest son, Beau Biden, died in 2015, aged 46, from glioblastoma. This opinion piece from the NY Times was written by two Brits and I have had the great pleasure of meeting both of them and hugely inspirational they both are. Definitely worth a click through.

In our own press more worrying news on how the Coronavirus pandemic is halting life-saving UK cancer research.

With so many extraordinary external factors affecting all that we do in our personal and professional lives and affecting all aspects of Brain Tumour Research’s work, it is worth remembering what Epictetus said (I did have to look it up to find out it was him who said it!).

Epictetus 55-135 AD was a Greek-born slave of Rome. He became a great philosopher and teacher and was eventually granted his freedom. One of his pearls of wisdom was “It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”

This is reflected in the beginning of this update with the pandemic potentially providing an opportunity to do things differently and better. To conclude this week, I cannot think of a better representation of the spirit of Epictetus than Alex and Matthew Pullan. Please do read more here as twin brothers’ fundraising reaches £11,000 after an appearance on ITV and you can support them both by donating and interacting on Twitter – Alex is @Alexisrunning2, Matthew is @runningthrucncr. It is inspirational and humbling stuff.

#braintumourpetition sweeps past the first target of over 10,000 signatures before the end of August. Well done everyone – let’s keep it going – a great end to the month.

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