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

Resolutions, resolve and research - Campaigning news

by Hugh Adams

Campaigners, by nature, are optimists because to campaign means that you want to, and believe that you can, influence change so, I’d like to wish every one of our brain tumour campaigners and activists a successful and fulfilling year of action.

This week’s #braintumourpetition update is that we are now in excess of 40,000 signatures – there is a long way to go but there was in 2016 and we eventually achieved 120,129 signatures, so we have done this before and we must do this again.

Remember this isn’t a Government petition, or being administered by an outside agency, so you can sign the #braintumourpetition if you are under 18 and also you don’t need to live in the UK to add to the momentum. Please do use Twitter to get your favourite celebrities involved and LinkedIn to get your connections to promote the petition within their companies.

This week saw me virtually attending fewer meetings than usual but next week Brain Tumour Research alongside other interested stakeholders will be meeting with Lord Bethell, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and Social Care and Minister for Innovation, the subject under discussion will be brain tumour research funding.

You may be interested to read a recent blog by Lord Bethell about how the Health Research Authority (HRA) is learning fast from the lessons of COVID-19, is listening hard to the needs of the research community and has launched a new three-month pilot to fast-track the vital ethics review stage of clinical trials approval. The full blog is here

Just before Christmas Colleen Fletcher MP asked the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what recent assessment he has made of trends in the level of funding for research into brain cancer.

The response from Edward Argar MP, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, was that (the italics are mine);

“Research is crucial in the fight against cancer. We invest £1 billion per year in health and care research through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The NIHR expenditure on cancer research has risen from £101 million in 2010/11 to £132 million in 2018/19, the largest investment in a disease area. In 2018 the Government announced £40 million over five years for brain cancer research as part of the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission. Funding is being invested through the NIHR to support a wide range of research from early translational and experimental medicine research.”

As was revealed at the Summer 2020 APPG on Brain Tumours, of that £40 million, and with nearly three years having passed, less than £6 million has actually been allocated to brain tumour researchers.

We hope that the meeting with Lord Bethell will move the agenda along – we will certainly be providing ideas for an improved funding pathway from NIHR to researcher, one that could see more money being allocated to the purpose for which it was intended. We are pushing forward and hope that the next time Edward Argar replies to a question on brain tumour research funding – and believe me he will be receiving them – he talks about what is happening in 2021 not what happened in 2018.

Getting questions asked of the Secretary of State is a competitive business, particularly in the current climate with Covid questions dominant – have a look at this; Questions for Answer on Tuesday 12 January - Oral Questions to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care – but we must not be put off. As you know I have been at Brain Tumour Research for a decade and, yes, there is so much further to go, but we have already come so far together.

It is a competitive business in the Lords too, but Lord Hunt of Kings Heath put in for the daily ballot on oral questions in the Upper House and was selected. On January 19th he will be asking Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to encourage research into (1) the causes, and (2) the treatment, of brain tumours. We will be supporting him and providing up to date information from our meeting with Lord Bethell.

I have had the opportunity to touch base with our research centres this week. In this time of increased and deserved recognition of the importance of science, the researchers are key workers carrying out vital work that cannot be conducted at home. Our research centres are open. I am talking with BRAIN UK later today to see how we can promote more widely their role in UK wide brain tumour research and this week a new paper from our Plymouth centre was accepted for publication. The teams at Imperial and QMUL are incredibly motivated as they begin 2021 – they have a real connection to our community; they know the stories of those that fund them and have met many of you at our lab tours. These tours will return and we will be proud to show you the work you support but a great way to view our Plymouth Centre remotely is the wonderful 360° virtual lab tour.

If you’d like to receive weekly worldwide research updates every Friday please let me know and I’ll add you to my research update database – you can get an idea of content in 2020 here.

For those of you who missed it before Christmas, here is our great friend Sarah Beeny supporting Brain Tumour Research in the Mail on Sunday’s ‘Me and My Money” section and finally huge congratulations to our long term advocate and activist the actor Sheila Hancock for her recent elevation to Damehood.

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