GLIMMERS OF HOPE... yet funding is not guaranteed, we need your support


Advances are being made but finding a cure for all types of brain tumours will not happen overnight, it needs more years of dedicated research if we are to achieve the same successes in treatments as have been discovered for diseases such as leukaemia, breast and lung cancer.


Currently UK brain tumour charities raise around £9 million a year between them. This total is a fantastic sum and goes to providing support and information and to funding research... but it is not enough!


Finding a cure and resolving the issues needs heroes to get behind the cause and to raise awareness both within their own communities, companies and nationally.

Drug repurposing - a novel approach for the treatment of brain tumours

Our Director of Research, Dr Kieran Breen, featured in the Mar/Apr 2017 edition of Oncology News with an article highlighting the promise shown by repurposing drugs that are already in existence for the treatment of brain tumours.

We highlighted this key issue in our Invest in a Cure manifesto. The issue was also identified by the Governmental Task and Finish Group, established in response to the UK Petitions Committee's report on poor levels of funding for brain tumour research.

Read the full article here.

The importance of tissue banking for our understanding of brain tumours

Our Director of Research, Dr Kieran Breen, featured in the Jan/Feb 2017 edition of Oncology News with an article highlighting the importance of tissue banking.

Brain Tumour Research has been at the forefront of this field within the UK due to our support of the BRAIN UK programme in Southampton. BRAIN UK is a virtual tissue bank which links 26 hospitals across and the UK and provides a single application centre for tissue samples.

Read the full article here.

New AT/RT therapies -- hype or hope? 

An online article, “Scientists find three subgroups in a children’s brain cancer, identify druggable targets”, suggests that new drugs may shortly be available for a specific type of brain tumour. Sounds like great news… but is this really the case? Our Director of Research, Dr Kieran Breen, probes the reality behind the headlines over on our blog


WHO publishes new guidelines on brain tumour classification

In May 2016, the World Health Organisation (WHO) published new official guidelines for the classification of brain tumours. Last published in 2007, this update now includes genetic and molecular information of tumours combined with their histology (the way tumours are examined under a microscope) into the classification process, which will help refine expert diagnosis and treatment of brain tumours.

In the nine years since publication, new and more sensitive techniques have been developed to allow for a greater accuracy of the histological assessment of tumour type. But, more importantly, a large amount of molecular and genetic data has been generated to help us to understand the biochemistry of tumour cells.
Research carried out at our Centres of Excellence has certainly contributed to this data. This highlights the importance of good communication, collaboration and the sharing of data, equipment and human resource that is actively promoted by us and lies at the heart of our mission to build a network of experts in sustainable brain tumour research.


The updated guidelines are a positive step forward for scientific research into and clinical treatment of brain tumours. They were developed by a working group of 35 researchers from 10 countries, who in turn have pulled together new information gleaned about brain tumours from hundreds of researchers working around the world over the last decade. The inclusion of the molecular genetic information reflects the technical advances that have been made in the field of neuro-oncology. Critically, this classification will also help identify more effective treatments for individual patients.

The new WHO guidelines re-classify a number of tumour types. This is based on a deeper biological understanding, location within the brain and the clinical symptoms of the tumours. Updates include an expanded classification for glioblastomas based on a certain genetic mutations and retiring the use of “oligoastrocytoma,” or mixed glioma, now classified more accurately as astrocytoma or oligodendroglioma.

Additional changes are found in the summary of the 2016 World Health Organization Classification of Tumours of the Central Nervous System.

November 2013: Eight organisations in bid to be new Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence


Institutions Bidding To Become New Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence Funding the FightEight British universities and hospitals are in a bid to become the next Centre of Excellence dedicated to research into brain tumours. The successful institution will enter a funding partnership with Brain Tumour Research, defining a new chapter in long-term sustainable research. Currently brain tumours receive less than 1% of the national spend on cancer research, despite more children and adults under 40 dying of a brain tumour than any other cancer. 





The eight applicants include:

  • The Blizard Institute at Barts and the London School of Medicine, Queen Mary University of London, in collaboration with UCL Institute of Neurology
  • Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust
  • Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University Belfast
  • Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham and the University of Birmingham
  • The Walton Centre NHS Foundation Trust (Liverpool)
  • The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)
  • Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry
  • The University of Bristol

Brain Tumour Research aims to help place the UK at the forefront of scientific understanding for this devastating disease. The funding partnership will secure key salaried positions at the new Centre of Excellence, freeing the team from the limitations of applying for one specific project grant after another. As specialist brain tumour expertise and knowledge builds across the seven centres, experienced researchers will be able to move between them, collaborating on the best thinking at the cutting edge of research. It is anticipated that, with greater job security through sustained funding, promising researchers will be trained up through the ranks to become the next generation of brain tumour experts, rather than being tempted into other areas of cancer research which currently attract greater funding.  


Brain Tumour Research is currently supporting a Centre of Excellence based in The University of Portsmouth, which is the biggest brain tumour laboratory in the UK. Here a dedicated team is looking at the mechanisms that cause tumour cells to invade healthy brain tissue, with the aim that this work will improve survival times for patients and potentially, one day, lead to a cure.


Sue Farrington Smith, Chief Executive of Brain Tumour Research, said: “Opening a second Centre of Excellence will significantly increase the chances of a scientist having that ‘eureka moment’ which could dramatically improve the outcome for brain tumour patients. Only 18.8% of those diagnosed with a brain tumour survive beyond five years, compared with an average of 50% across other cancers, and we are determined to do all we can to change this.”


Brain Tumour Research is aiming to establish seven Centres of Excellence across the country and ultimately to find a cure into brain tumours. Read the full press release here.

October 2012: First of seven 'Centres of Hope' expands bid to beat brain tumours 


Inspired by our Chief Executive’s niece the Alison Phelan Memorial Laboratory was declared open on 31st October 2012, significantly increasing the size of the existing facility at the University of Portsmouth. Sue explains, “My niece Ali is the inspiration behind my passion to drive the research into brain tumours forward. My sister – Julie, and other members of our family and friends don’t want other families to have to go through what we went through. I still can’t believe how little funding goes into finding a cure for a disease that steals so many people’s futures. Our aim is to create a global network of research centres where knowledge and findings can be shared easily in order to make regular advancements towards a solution.”


Brain Tumour Research in collaboration with three of our member charities Ali’s Dream, Charlie’s Challenge and Headcase, jointly raised one million pounds in 2012 to support the laboratory which is led by Professor Geoff Pilkington, one of the worlds’ leading brain tumour research scientists. Other member charities Brainwaves NI and Levi’s Star have also contributed to the funds granted.


This much needed funding has enabled the development of the University's molecular neuro-oncology facility and the appointment of four additional posts, headed up by Principal Research Fellow Helen Filmore, a well-respected US brain specialist who joined Portsmouth from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Neurosurgery. This is the first of seven Centres that will open in the next few years, looking after projects from studies on high and low grade tumours to specific tumour types, affecting adults, children and both.


Professor Geoff Pilkington summarises the projects in hand,“One very promising area of our research is looking at how we can trigger particular brain tumour cells to destroy themselves.  Huge strides have been made in this area using both tricylic drugs and insect virus mediated gene therapy approaches. We can now make certain tumour cells self-destruct in some types of tumour and we are now working on trying to apply this to paediatric brain tumours. We are also very proud to say that we have created the first ever all-human blood brain barrier model to help develop nanoparticle drug delivery systems.”


He concludes, “This is, in over forty years in brain tumour research, perhaps the most exciting period of my career, in terms of the potential for development of both new bio- markers to determine patient outcome and novel therapeutic targets, which we hope will bring renewed hope for brain tumour patients. It’s fantastic to be part of such a dedicated team of experienced and talented people that are passionate about further developing the field.”


Brain Tumour Research aims to create a national network of research facilities that can eventually find a cure for this terrible disease, with another two due to be announced later in 2013.  Each Centre will require £1 million a year to fund it.

March 2012: All The Way from Memphis – how your support brought Helen to Portsmouth…


A leading US brain tumour specialist is one of a number of key team appointments made to the UK’s first dedicated laboratory-based brain tumour research centre thanks to a further half a million grant from Brain Tumour Research.


In collaboration with member charities: Ali’s DreamCharlie’s Challenge and Headcase, Brain Tumour Research has enabled Professor Helen Fillmore to join the University of Portsmouth’s Cellular and MolecularNeuro-Oncology Group.  The research team will also be expanded by three PhD studentships in the Autumn.


Neuro-oncology scientist, Helen, joins from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Neurosurgery, where she started as a post doctoral fellow.  She was appointed an assistant professor in 1998 and became an associate professor in 2006. 


Principal Research Fellow, Helen, is excited at the opportunity to work with such a dedicated and talented group:  “What really motivated me to come was a shared passion to make a difference to people’s lives.  This, coupled with ‘World Class’ facilities, opens the door further to finding a solution to brain tumours and I am so delighted to be able to be playing a role here at Portsmouth.”


After a brief spell studying sport in her native Tennessee, Helen found her true vocation in brain tumour research (“I picked up a book on the subject one day and then couldn’t stop wanting to know more!”) and took to a ferocious period of learning - with commendable results.


Helen Fillmore has a degree from California State University and a PhD at the University of Tennessee, Memphis, Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Centre for Excellence in Neuroscience. Her achievements include helping establish a brain tumour tissue bank in Virginia which contains over 300 brain tumours, cell lines, DNA and protein samples.  More recently, she has been involved in using a nanotechnology approach to treat brain tumours.


Helen, who has held a variety of affiliations and joint academic appointments including: physiology, biophysics, anatomy, neurobiology, biochemistry, molecular biology and pharmaceutics, shares her colleagues’ drive to find answers to help fight brain tumours. 


Her expertise and input is clearly much valued by the University of Portsmouth’s team leader Professor Geoff Pilkington, who says: “Helen brings us over twenty years’ experience in cancer research, with fifteen of these years dedicated to neuro-oncology research. Ultimately, our collective experience working with patients is what motivates us to invest the time to move our knowledge and understanding forward every single day.  Helen’s commitment and passion are evidenced by the contribution she is already making here and we are all very grateful to Brain Tumour Research, its member charities and supporters for enabling her to be working with us.”

December 2010: Sheila Hancock launches ‘Wall of Hope’ at the University of Portsmouth’s brain tumour research centre


In December 2010, Actor, Author and Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth, Sheila Hancock launched our first ‘Wall of Hope’ to raise £1 million for research at the University of Portsmouth. The wall marks the launch of Brain Tumour Research’s national £7 million ‘Centres of Hope’ fundraising campaign to raise £7m for seven dedicated brain tumour research centres to get seven times closer to a cure for brain tumours.


Sheila Hancock, whose grandson Jack was diagnosed with a brain tumour, is calling on local businesses, organisations and Portsmouth residents to help raise £1 million to fund brain tumour research at the centre by sponsoring a day of research for £2,740 which will be recognised by a commemorative plaque on the centre’s ‘Wall of Hope’ as well as on our website


The ‘Centre’, under the leadership of Professor Geoff Pilkington, is one of seven planned to address the serious under-funding of research into the UK’s biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40. In the UK, brain tumours kill more children than leukaemia or any other cancer; more women under the age of 35 than breast or any other cancer; and more men under the age of 45 than prostate or any other cancer, yet brain tumour research receives less than 1% of national cancer research spending.


Sheila Hancock says:“My grandson Jack was diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of four - we were incredibly lucky Jack’s tumour was low grade and he lives a normal healthy life now, but it is terrible to watch a family member go through the diagnosis and treatment of a brain tumour. I implore you to get involved and buy as many days as you can on the ‘Wall of Hope’ to support vital research here at the University of Portsmouth’s dedicated Centre”.


Geoff Pilkington, Professor of Cellular & Molecular Neuro-oncology at the University of Portsmouth comments: “Previous discoveries in the area of brain tumours have not translated into significant clinical progress because the lack of funding has prevented sustainable research.  I strongly believe that what my colleagues and I are doing at the Portsmouth Centre will eventually result in real benefit for the 16,000 patients diagnosed with brain tumours each year.”



July 2010: £500,000 Grant Paves the Way for a dedicated Brain Tumour Research Centre at the University of Portsmouth


Childhood brain tumour research charities, Ali's Dream and Charlie’s Challenge, paved the way for the establishment of a dedicated Brain Tumour Research Centre at the University of Portsmouth.  Both members of the Brain Tumour Research group of charities committed £370,000 between them and the grant was backed by a further commitment of £144,000 from the umbrella charity.  These grants will ensure that the long-term aim of the University of Portsmouth to find a solution to brain tumours is maintained and secured.


Julie Phelan, who set up the charity Ali's Dream along with family and friends, following the loss of her daughter, Alison on June 7th 2001, three weeks before her eighth birthday, said:


“The last nine years have been a dreadful, painful journey.  When Ali was diagnosed there was no information to guide us on where to turn for help in order to gain a better understanding of what to do next.  After Ali died we were left with no support. We felt so passionate about trying to ease the pain for others suffering in this way. This is why we set up Ali’s Dream.“It was so hard at the time that Ali was diagnosed and the only treatment we were offered was radiotherapy. The radiotherapy treatment went better than we thought, so we kept positive. This bought us valuable time as a family.


“Along our journey we always thought 'there is always hope', we kept believing, and our hope kept us going. Professor Geoff Pilkington, a brain tumour scientist, was always on the end of the phone to offer his advice and support.  He would say 'Never say never!'


“When Ali was taken from us we were determined to help prevent our pain from happening to other families.  We were driven to make a difference. So we set up Ali’s Dream and were overwhelmed by the support and encouragement by those around us and that have joined us along the way. We never imagined the charity would be the success it is today.


“People with brain tumours rarely survive. The brain tumour world is let down as it is a relatively rare cancer, however the number of young adults and children that die is scary compared with other cancers.


“I am so proud of all the people who have helped us achieve this, we have fantastic people on board and now we want to do anything that we can to bring it to the forefront.


“Sadly our Ali’s dream of living did not come true. As a family our determination is to see our Alison’s dream realised through the cure of other children who are suffering as she did from this dreadful illness. We need brain tumours to be taken seriously and to have the same voice as the bigger cancer related charities. Brain tumours need a voice.


“Joining together with fellow brain tumour charities to establish a brain tumour research ‘Centre of Excellence’ at the University of Portsmouth is a great way forward."


Geoff Pilkington, Professor of Neuro-oncology at the University of Portsmouth who will head up the Centre said: “Currently a disproportionate amount o

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