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

Being practical and our share of £20 million

by Hugh Adams

Some of my blogs are about strategy. Some are emotional. Some are practical.

This week we are in a practical, ‘doing’ mood – we have been doing the paperwork, signing the letters and going to the meetings.

On the 27th May 2021 the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) published information announcing that Government will make £20 million available for early career researchers supported by charities. We are lobbying for a share of that £20 million Government research investment that has been promised in recognition of the losses our sector has suffered as a result of COVID-19.The paperwork is in and we are calling for a 1.8% share of the £20 million which we consider to be fair and realistic.

Why 1.8%?

Historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease. Anything less than £200 thousand equates to less than 1% of the £20 million. Together we have campaigned to increase this investment. Now is the time to move the dial and increase this low figure. If granted, this funding will help Brain Tumour Research recover most of the c.£500 thousand cuts and withdrawals it had to make during the COVID-19 pandemic. It will enable us to bring forward vital recruitment of the brightest and best research talent into the brain tumour research field.

Brain tumour research funding is a recognised area of unmet need and a strategic priority.

Former Health Minister Lord Bethell acknowledged that brain tumour research will continue to be a priority into the future, stating: “This is not going to happen overnight, but I give assurances we are committed to finding a solution.”

UKRI’s Chief Executive, Professor Dame Ottoline Leyser reiterated in her letter to Catherine McKinnell MP, Chair of the Petitions Committee in July 2021, that the priority is to “stimulate interest both within the existing brain tumour research community for both adult and paediatric cancer, as well as to facilitate innovative dialogue with potential new players across research disciplines and communities and along the research pathway”.

Access to this £20 million fund is the perfect opportunity to move from empathy to action.

We have been given optimism by the words of Lord Bethell and Dame Ottoline Leyser but these warm words and promises must now be delivered financially.

This week two webinars were held facilitated by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission (TJBCM). The events were aimed at increasing the number of successful funding applications in brain tumour research by providing an overview of current funding opportunities and how to create a successful proposal.

Our Chief Executive, Sue Farrington Smith MBE, presented to the virtual attendees of the first session stressing that, at Brain Tumour Research, our vision is to find a cure for all types of brain tumours and that, to accelerate this, our mission is to increase the UK investment in brain tumour research. It is through successful research funding applications that this investment will be increased.

Sue was also able to share that Brain Tumour Research is looking to invite applications for new Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence partnerships in the summer of 2022 and outlined the criteria that have made our existing partnerships with Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), Imperial College, London and the University of Plymouth so successful.

Other presenters at the first session were Dr Clemency Jolly, a Research Grants Manager at Cancer Research UK (CRUK), whose topic was ‘Funding opportunities and application strengths and weaknesses’. A similar topic was explored by Professor Ruth Plummer, Clinical Professor of Experimental Cancer Medicine, Newcastle University and a panel member of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The NIHR presented again at the second session alongside the Medical Research Centre (MRC) and gave very informative talks on both their funding streams and how to submit a successful application. The Brain Tumour Charity outlined the direction of their new research strategy due to be published in December.

Sue said: “I found the NIHR, MRC and CRUK presentations enlightening, in particular how these organisations encourage prospective applicants to talk to the grant managers and discuss their ideas before submitting. The importance of doing your homework before applying came through loud and clear.”

These workshops have been a positive step which we applaud but the value will only be known when we come to review the outcomes and specifically any impact on future allocation of NIHR money. We will continue to ask the questions that need to be asked.

We hold the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Brain Tumours (APPGBT) and this has enabled us to play an active part in the APPG on Cancer with the other secretariat holders for site specific cancer APPGs.

Together we are asking; ‘Can you help us lobby the Government with a powerful, united demand that they fund the cancer workforce?’

We're calling for urgent investment in NHS cancer professionals, so people with cancer get the treatment and care they deserve. Hard working cancer staff have been there for us during the pandemic. Now we need to be there for them. The APPGC are aiming to bring somewhere between 80-100 professionals and campaigners (whose cancer journey has been impacted by the cancer workforce) into Parliament on the 27th of October.

We are looking for professionals and campaigners who may be interested in attending this year’s All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPGC) Workforce Lobby Day

With Covid restrictions allowing, the event will take place between 10:00-12:00pm on Wednesday 27th October, in Westminster Hall. Those attending would need to be in Westminster from 9:00am - 1pm on the day. The event will be an opportunity to meet with MPs and talk about your experience as a Cancer Nurse or the impact the cancer workforce has had on your cancer journey, and about the sectors collective call for investment in the cancer workforce Attendees will be expected to talk to parliamentarians from all political parties to give them a sense of the current pressures on and the need to support the cancer workforce. There are likely to be some photos taken with MPs so anybody invited would need to feel comfortable with representing the APPGC and Brain Tumour Research in this capacity.

Please let me know if you would like to attend, or if you would like some more information.

If visiting Westminster isn’t the right thing for you at the moment then your support for the APPGC can be shown by signing this petition

An application completed, an online workshop attended and a lobbying event planned – these are the day top day activities of campaigners. Will they make a difference – yes, we honestly believe they will because if we didn’t, we couldn’t, wouldn’t, do what we do. We do what we do, day in day out, because we are the same as you – people dedicated, passionate and determined to make anyone diagnosed with a brain tumour face that diagnosis with hope and not despair.

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