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

Awareness, Hats and From Loss Comes Hope

by Hugh Adams

March is Brain Tumour Awareness Month – many of you will know that already and some of you won’t but you are all invited to support us as we raise awareness of the devastating disease that has pulled us together.

Every year on March 1st we hold a minute’s silence to remember those lost to brain tumours.

On Tuesday March 1st, 11am will be a moment of calm and reflection for our researchers in London and Plymouth.

It will be the same at our head office in Milton Keynes with our team members being together either online or in person.

Would you like to join us?

It will be a 30-minute Zoom meeting from 10:45 – 11:15 on Tuesday 1st March and will be a chance for us all to reflect on why we support the vision and mission of Brain Tumour Research and to honour and cherish the memory of those so special to us.

Email me (hugh@braintumourresearch.org)  if you would like to begin Brain Tumour Awareness Month 2022 with others who know, and care, and understand the devastation brain tumours can bring.

Currently at Westminster the House is in recess but that doesn’t mean we can’t be politically active. On the contrary we have a list of questions that need answering as we build a full brain tumour research funding picture, both to support our own campaigning agenda and to inform the APPGBT as the ‘Pathway to a Cure’ inquiry begins.

MPs are more likely to ask questions that have been sent to them by constituents who explain to them why they want a question asked, why brain tumours are an area they care about. Could you help us with that? Please email me and I will send back a question to ask and a suggested template for you to use to email your MP.

Towards the end of Brain Tumour Awareness Month on Friday 26th March is Wear A Hat Day, which is my absolutely favourite campaign.

Over the last decade, Wear A Hat Day has raised millions to support pioneering research and our campaigning to increase the national investment in brain tumour research. Now, we need your help to make 2022 the biggest and hattiest Wear A Hat Day yet.

We’re thrilled to have several of our celebrity ambassadors onboard and fronting the campaign this year. Each of them has experienced the devastation of a brain tumour diagnosis and are urging YOU to join in to help find a cure.

TV’s Instant Gardener Danny Clarke lost his sister Margot to a brain tumour. Actor and long-time supporter Dame Sheila Hancock DBE’s grandson Jack was treated when he was just four years old. TV personality Sarah Beeny was in her 20s when she lost her mum to a brain tumour. And our Patron Caprice Bourret underwent surgery for a meningioma six years ago.

Join this star-studded line up and  register for Wear A Hat Day today. Plan your own hattastic fundraising events at home, work, school, or with your community or club, and have great fun, whilst raising vital funds for Brain Tumour Research.

The money you raise will help towards establishing our fourth UK Research Centre of Excellence this year, where pioneering research will work towards improving outcomes and, ultimately, finding a cure for brain tumours.

Brain Tumour Awareness Month and Wear A Hat Day both offer great opportunities for political engagement. For example, most MPs are on Twitter so why not email them during March and ask them to put on a hat, take a photo and tweet the following:

I’m proud to support #BrainTumourAwarenessMonth and @braintumourrsch On Friday 25th March I’ll be wearing a hat for #WearAHatDay Join me and raise vital funds to help find a cure for #braintumours. Register to receive your fundraising pack https://bit.ly/3HLBVXl #BTAM

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, has announced a new 10 year national ‘war on cancer’, which will aim to see cancer services in England become the best in Europe. Central strands of this policy are:

  • Improving cancer prevention, tackling risk factors such as smoking and obesity
  • Tackling disparities and inequalities. A commitment to ‘levelling up cancer.’ Targeted interventions focused on the variation of diagnostic waits, variation in early diagnosis and survival, and a desire for an equitable pandemic recovery.
  • A focus on early diagnosis, including an intention to ‘go further than’ the 75% early diagnosis ambition
  • ‘Intensifying research’ including, through the Life Sciences Vision, cancer therapeutics, mRNA vaccines and early detection and diagnosis tools, and seeing people from more diverse background represented in clinical trials.

Our Director of Research, Policy and Innovation, Dr Karen Noble provides the following analysis:

“At Brain Tumour Research we welcome the ambitions of the Secretary of State as laid out but, as with most strategic announcements, the devil is in the detail and that is where I feel our disease area remains a poor relation.

Clearly cancer prevention is a key goal and where risk factors can be identified then public health education is vital. Where does that leave us if no risk factors are identified? It is only around 4 in 10 cancer cases that are caused by preventable risk factors – for brain tumours we don’t yet understand the causes let alone how to prevent them!

The answer to that lies in greater understanding of the disease because before public health advice comes scientific research.

With inequalities in the health economy – brain tumours are no respecter of health, wealth, background or geographical boundaries. They are indiscriminate and more complex for that reason and so must be treated as a cancer that poses unique problems. Our 2021 Stop the Devastation Report called on the Government to introduce a new levelling up brain tumour research fund of £105 million.

Research into brain tumours must not be left behind – the nation needs to Level Up and invest at least £35 million a year if we are to find a cure for brain tumours in the next 20 years

With earlier diagnosis, this can mean more time for drugs to be trialled, earlier access to therapeutics, ‘gained’ time when latest discoveries can be administered. For this to work the trials must be in place, the therapeutics available, the new drugs ‘brought to market’. Ultimately the journey, the narrative, always begins back at the scientists’ bench because that is the cornerstone of improving and adding to, what is available to the patient.

If earlier is indeed better then we also need to look beyond the first presentation of symptoms to the point of tumour genesis and that is why blood biopsies and the role of genetics are so vital.

Recognising the importance of research in driving cancer transformation is welcome but we would have liked to see more detail on this, particularly on early-stage research and a recognition of the impact on this of the last two years, including any plans the Government has to support those charities like Brain Tumour Research, which have traditionally taken the more riskier research funding burden, which will lead to novel discoveries. “

Finally, here is a short piece of writing that is recommended to end this week. Sad, moving and uplifting the contents of this piece are hugely impactful and  the four words of the title  seem to sum everything up about the role and motivation of Brain Tumour Research ‘From Loss Comes Hope’

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