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

Parliament reset, stimulating funding and momentum

Parliament reset, stimulating funding and momentum
by Hugh Adams

Last week Parliament was prorogued ahead of the State Opening of Parliament by the Queen on May 11th. This means that the current parliamentary session has ended and there is no business taking place in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords. No debates, no select committees, no APPGs and no parliamentary questions. When Parliament returns there will be a new legislative agenda and local and national elections will have concluded.

During the Queen’s speech, Her Majesty officially opens the next session of parliament and reads out the planned legislation the Government has for the session ahead. This is a really important time, when a number of debates on topics such as health and research will be placed on the agenda. This year’s Queen’s Speech will include landmark legislation on the NHS and it will be a real opportunity for us to lobby parliamentarians on the issue of brain tumour research and improving outcomes for brain tumour patients.

In practical terms, the proroguing of parliament is a reset. Any of our previously tabled (but unanswered) parliamentary questions will now be ‘dropped’ and no longer answered. This is a real opportunity for us to make a fresh push on Parliamentarians in our call to level up brain tumour research funding.

Outside of Westminster we also have the local and devolved elections taking place, which means that both the Scottish and Welsh parliaments are also dissolved and awaiting the outcome of the election. Regardless of the outcome of the vote, this means that there will be new members of the devolved parliaments and possibly new administrations for us to engage with. We will be keeping a close eye on all the changes which follow the election – an exciting time for us, working together to reset and re-engage new individuals across the regions.

There was a rumour last week that a significant research funding announcement from Government was imminent. Could it be for cancer, could we influence it to be for brain tumour research?

We did, as we always do, what we could to place us front of mind, and all of your campaigning work would have really helped with this, but in the end the announcement came that there was to be a new cutting-edge testing centre to fast-track COVID-19 variant vaccines.

Fantastic news of course but not in the area we all hoped for. 

The question I am most often asked when interviewed on television or radio is why has brain tumour research funding been so low historically and here is your answer – momentum.

I know that Covid is at the top of everyone’s agenda right now and the vaccine roll out has been something to be proud of but it has only come about because of well-funded discovery science.

Funding brings progress and progress attracts funding.

For example, our Centre research funding model enables Centres to leverage our funding and attract additional money. In 2019 we announced that a £1.5 million grant from the Barts Charity had been awarded to brain tumour expert Silvia Marino who leads our Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University of London. The grant was to support Professor Marino’s work – identifying and developing new drugs that can ‘switch off’ brain cancer stem cells that control tumour growth – over the next five years. This funding was to create the infrastructure at Barts Health NHS Trust that will significantly enhance the research at our Centre and allow the team to run clinical trials with brain tumour patients. At the time Professor Marino said “To be able to build on the foundations established by Brain Tumour Research enables us not just to continue but to grow our research capabilities and invest more resource into finding answers to questions about how tumours develop and what new drugs can we discover to stop them. It’s an exciting time and will allow us to move faster from the bench to the bedside, offering more experimental treatments to patients.”

We have always been clear on our aim to stimulate further research by attracting new funders and this has always included central funding from the Government

As mentioned before, research progress attracts new investment too, but it also provides vital hope. Around the world progress is being made, the glimmers of hope are there – if you are interested email me (hugh@braintumourresearch.org)  and I can add you to our list of campaigners with a research interest that receive my weekly research updates  - every week there is something that could be a game changer, but we need more glimmers, more hope, more money!

After a generation of underfunding to the tune of £35 million per year, and the failure of brain tumour patients by successive Governments, that parity looks like a levelling up fund of £105 million over the term of the current Parliament.

Let the legacy of the pandemic include adequate funding for the discovery science that can promise so much but only deliver with appropriate financial underpinning.

Thanks for all of the support last week in asking your MPs to join us at the APPG on Brain Tumours to be held virtually on 18th May. I make no apologies for asking those of you yet to do so to please adapt the template below and ask your MP to engage with us.

Please send the following (or a personalised version of the following) as a ‘Save the Date’ email to your MPs this weekend. Remember to Cc me (hugh@braintumourresearch.org) .

Subject; - APPG on brain tumours 18 May 09:00

Dear <Your MP’s name>

The APPG on brain tumours will be taking place via Zoom on Tuesday 18th May from 09:00 – 10:00 and will be chaired by Derek Thomas MP. An invite, agenda and briefing document from the charity Brain Tumour Research who provide the APPG’s secretariat will be forthcoming in due course and Hugh from the charity is Cc’d. As your constituent, and as someone who is passionate about improving options and outcomes for brain tumour patients I am asking if you could please make space in your diary and join that meeting.

It would be hugely appreciated.

…..

<Your Name>

<Your postal address and postcode>

If you don’t already have it - you can find your MP’s name and address here:   members.parliament.uk/members/Commons

Let’s start the new session of Parliament with a bang, letting our elected representatives know what we want, why we want it and what we want them to do about it.

Finally, this week the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) is seeking a trustee to join its Board and help strengthen its core purpose of promoting coordination and collaboration in cancer research. For more information regarding this role, please visit: www.ncri.org.uk/opportunity/trustee-consumer/

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