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Press release

Less than 20% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years

Experts call for innovation in brain tumour research

Experts call for innovation in brain tumour research

The Government has today called for greater innovation in brain tumour research, as it publishes a landmark review into brain cancer research in the UK.

The new report by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) Task and Finish Working Group found that one of the barriers to finding breakthrough treatments for the disease is the lack of high quality research applications for specialist funding.

Drawing on the expertise of clinicians, charities, patients and government advisers, the Working Group explored how to increase the level and impact of research in brain tumours.

The Task and Finish Working Group came to a series of conclusions:

  • Dedicated brain tumour research centres are an effective way of expanding and developing research capacity and capability.
  • The current processes for collection, storage and sharing of brain tumour tissue, blood samples and clinical data are not optimal for the latest research requirements.
  • Appropriate drugs, originally developed for other conditions but with potential for the effective treatment of brain tumours, should be ‘repurposed’ where the evidence supports it.
  • Sub–speciality training for neuro-oncology should be included in the curriculum and appropriate time should be ring-fenced to allow consultants to carry out research.
  • Funders should highlight that applications focused on brain tumour research are particularly welcome. These include studies on the development of pre-clinical models, tumour detection, radiotherapy, surgery, drug development, and clinical trials.
  • The UK brain tumour and neurosciences research communities should work together to explore opportunities for research collaborations.
  • Patient health data, with the appropriate permission, should be available for use in research to accelerate the development of new treatments.
  • More coordination and cooperation within the brain tumour research community is essential to accelerate progress in the field.

Chair of Task and Finish Working Group and DHSC Chief Scientific Adviser, Professor Chris Whitty said:

“This is a hugely complex and challenging issue, but one that everyone around the table is dedicated to seeing progress on. This report is an important staging post on a considerable journey which we all agree needs to be made. It is heartening to realise this opportunity to catalyse change.

“Since we formed the Working Group, we have already seen the launch of exciting initiatives in brain tumour research, including Cancer Research UK’s new £25 million investment, with many more in development.”

Sue Farrington Smith MBE, Chief Executive of Brain Tumour Research, said:

“No one doubts that there is much more that needs to be done; brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer. This report recognises the serious barriers we face, yet it also notes that progress is being made, particularly through charities supporting dedicated research centres.

“Like patients and their families across the UK, I am impatient for change and will continue to work to improve outcomes for brain tumour patients.”

Dr David Jenkinson, Chief Scientific Officer for The Brain Tumour Charity, said:

“This report provides an overview of the problems that are hindering progress towards a cure for brain tumours.

“For the sake of each and every family affected by the disease, it must be a springboard for more effective action – including greater collaboration to boost global research.”

The Task and Finish report comes ahead of today’s Brain Cancer Initiative Roundtable which was convened following a speech by Baroness Tessa Jowell, who shared how she had been diagnosed with a highly aggressive form of brain tumour – high-grade glioblastoma multiforme – which typically has a prognosis of just 9-18 months.

The roundtable, to be chaired by the Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Baroness Tessa Jowell, will involve representatives from leading cancer, academic and pharmaceutical organisations.

Speaking ahead of the Brain Cancer Initiative Roundtable, Health Minister Lord O’Shaughnessy said:

“This is an opportunity to harness the expertise of leading figures in brain tumour research, development and treatment so we can formulate a blueprint for the future that has the ability to transform lives.

“We must all work closely together in the coming months and years to build on the issues surrounding this devastating illness, so we can see improved survival rates and a greater quality of life for those living with brain cancer.”


The Task and Finish Working Group consisted of representatives from:

Department of Health

Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry

Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy

Institute of Cancer Sciences & Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre

Brain Tumour Research

Children with Cancer UK

Cancer Research UK

National Cancer Research Institute

Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust

NHS England

Medical Research Council

The Brain Tumour Charity

University of Nottingham

NIHR Evaluation Trials and Studies

University of Wolverhampton


For further information, please contact:
Caroline Marrows at Brain Tumour Research on 01908 867221 or 07714 743764 or


Notes to Editors

Brain Tumour Research is the only national charity in the UK focused on funding sustainable research to find a cure for brain tumours. We have established a game-changing network of world-class Research Centres of Excellence in the UK. Embracing passionate member charities nationwide, over £6 million was raised towards research and support during 2017.

We are campaigning to see the national spend on research into brain tumours increased to £30 - £35 million a year, in line with breast cancer and leukaemia. The unprecedented success of our 2015 petition led to the 2016 Westminster Hall debate and Brain Tumour Research taking a leading role in the Government’s Task and Finish Working Group convened to tackle the historic underfunding for research with the report being published in 2018.

Key statistics on brain tumours:

  • Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer
  • They kill more children than leukaemia
  • They kill more men under 45 than prostate cancer
  • They kill more women under 35 than breast cancer
  • Just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease
  • In the UK 16,000 people each year are diagnosed with a brain tumour
  • Less than 20% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years compared with an average of 50% across all cancers
  • Brain tumours are indiscriminate; they can affect anyone at any age
  • Incidences of, and deaths from, brain tumours are increasing

Please quote Brain Tumour Research as the source when using this information. Additional facts and statistics are available from our website including our latest Report on National Research Funding. We can also provide case-studies and research expertise for media.

(All attendees of the Working Group pictured)