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16,000 people diagnosed with a brain tumour every year

Brain Tumour Research Scientific and Medical Advisory Board (SMAB)

Our Scientific and Medical Advisory Board (SMAB) provides independent, objective reviews of our research programme and strategy.

Members of the SMAB are chosen due to their internationally regarded experience and expertise, enabling them to provide invaluable scientific support and advice to the charity, our researchers and our Board of Trustees. Members of the SMAB include independent researchers who are not beneficiaries for a particular application round. Any conflicts of interest must be declared and are taken into consideration during every stage of each review process. Our Conflicts of Interest and Confidentiality Policy is available from here.

SMAB members are volunteers and do not receive any payment for their services, however reasonable expenses for travel and accommodation are provided. They are appointed as individuals to fulfil the role of the committee, not as representatives of their particular profession, employer or interest group. We are very grateful for their generous donation of time and expertise.

Our SMAB helps to ensure that we are investing in high quality, peer-reviewed research that serves the best interest of patients and scientists and clinicians, provides the very best basis for effective clinical trials and eventually new therapies that will bring us closer to a cure for brain tumours.

This process of peer review is internationally recognised as best practice for ensuring that our funds are used wisely and effectively. We are a member of the Association of Medical Research Charities and a partner organisation of the National Cancer Research Institute.


Brain Tumour Research Annual Review Process

Every year, Centres are asked to complete a report designed to answer important questions.

  • Are supporters’ donations being used in the most effective way possible, to bring us closer to a cure?
  • Does the research offer good value for money?
  • Are the Centres progressing according to plan?
  • Does their research remain relevant and valuable in the light of any new discoveries from around the globe?
  • Does the research complement and not duplicate other research?
  • Has the grantholder achieved meaningful outputs, outcomes and achievements from the research programme that are reasonable for the level of grant funding and within a single year time frame?
  • Is the Centre securing a good level of grant from other funders?
  • Are key performance indicators set the previous year being achieved?
  • Is the Centre producing an appropriate number of papers, and are they being published in high quality, peer reviewed publications with a high impact factor?
  • Are those publications providing a relevant and valuable contribution to the UK and Global neuro-oncology knowledge base?
  • Is there evidence of good levels of collaboration and interactions with other research groups in order to maximise the investment in the centre by Brain Tumour Research?

Their completed reports are then sent out to selected members of the SMAB, who review them using both qualitative and quantitative methods: in other words, they offer comments, and scores on a scale of 1 to 5, in each category.

Each Centre is visited by a team from Brain Tumour Research so that the reports can be discussed in person. The team consists of the Chair of the SMAB, Sue Farrington Smith MBE (Chief Executive), the Director of Finance and Operations and the Director of Research, Policy and Innovation. This enables any questions arising from the reports to be clarified and fed back to the Research Sub-Committee alongside the SMAB reviews. During the COVID-19 pandemic, to ensure that Annual Review meetings could be conducted safely, we held them by video-conference.

Reports from the Annual Review meeting are submitted to the Research Sub-Committee, which is comprised of Brain Tumour Research Trustees. The Research Sub-Committee also independently review the full reports from each Centre, before making their recommendations for the next year of grant funding to the full Board of Trustees.

This entire process is designed to assist the charity in the prioritisation of where funds should be granted, especially if Centre requirements are in excess of charity funds available

Brain Tumour Research Quinquennial Review (QQR) Process

Every five years, each Centre of Excellence is asked to complete a more in-depth version of the Annual Review Process.

Their report is sent out to International Peer Review, to a panel consisting of reviewers with a specific area of expertise related to the focus of the Centre, as well as members of the SMAB who also have relevant areas of expertise.

Members of the International Peer Review Board accompany the Brain Tumour Research lead team on a visit to the Centre under review.

The review is an important stage for the charity to review the Centre’s progress over the previous five years and consider its future plans for the next five years. This provides the charity with an independent, expert assessment of the Centre’s achievements and goals. It also provides an opportunity for the Centre to include new areas of research that have been indicated as potential routes to a cure for brain tumours, based on their discoveries in the preceding five years.

Other roles of the SMAB

In addition to the above, the SMAB may sometimes be required to complete other tasks.

  • Assist the charity’s Board of Trustees in monitoring the research strategy and assessing effectiveness and impact of the charity’s research spend
  • Assist the charity in exploring opportunities for leverage of research funds and for developing research partnerships
  • Advise the charity’s Board of Trustees on the overall strategy for research and the identification of opportunities and gaps
  • Advise the charity’s Board of Trustees on the best mechanisms to achieve the research objectives
  • Recommend international peer reviewers for the applications, based on the reviewers’ knowledge of established Centres
  • Meet with members of the Brain Tumour Research Sub-Committee to prioritise selection of centres based on feedback received from the International Peer Reviewers
  • Provide one or two members to accompany charity Research Sub-Committee members on initial site visits prior to engagement of new Centres
  • Provide ongoing advice to the Brain Tumour Research team and ‘expert’ quotes and support with raising awareness through the media and with politicians
  • Provide members to conduct Quinquennial Review site visits

Our SMAB Members plus other QQR Peer Reviewers

Chair - Prof Garth Cruickshank

SMAB and Peer Reviewer

Prof Cruickshank retired as Professor of Neurosurgery at the Institute of Cancer and Genomic Sciences, Birmingham in 2018. He worked with the NCRI and European Association of Neuro-oncology (EANO), developing services for brain tumour patients as well as several clinical trials, most recently the new Immunotherapy vaccine trial ‘STING’.

With a degree in biochemistry and physiology, then a PhD in Pharmacology, he began his oncology and neurosurgical career at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in London, moving on to undergo Specialist Training in Neurosurgery in Glasgow’s prestigious Institute of Neurological Sciences.

Here he carried out the first Polarographic Oxygen measurements in Human Brain tumours during surgery, followed by other work related to our understanding of hypoxia in brain cancer. Data from these studies lead to the trial of Tirapazamine as a hypoxic sensitiser for radiotherapy. In 1993 as a Senior Lecturer in Neurosurgery he worked with Prof Moira Brown FRSE on the use of Oncolytic Herpesvirus HSV1716 directly injected into human GBM for the first time. 

In 1997 Prof Cruickshank moved to the Chair of Neurosurgery in Birmingham. He worked with the NCRI and European Association of Neuro-oncology (EANO), developing services for brain tumour patients as well as several clinical trials, most recently Avoglio, Oparatic, IDEB and the new Immunotherapy vaccine trial ‘STING’. In Birmingham he helped to introduce new innovations such as loco-regional drug implantation and worked on novel treatments such as biologically targeted radiation therapy. He has also been working closely with basic scientists on new therapeutic approaches in target discovery and drug delivery, as well as carrying out progressive surgery for brain and skull based tumours.

In 2006 he was on the team that introduced the NICE Brain and CNS tumours Improving Outcomes Guidance that transformed the landscape for the delivery of Neuro-Oncology in the UK. He has served on editorial boards and the council of BNOG, BASO and the NCRI Clinical Studies Group. For many years he was deeply involved in the commissioning of cancer services and continues on the Cancer Services Committee of the RCS as SBNS representative. Currently he chairs the DVLA Neurology Medical Panel and is also the lead Clinician on the NICE ‘Primary Brain Tumours and Cerebral Metastases’ clinical guidelines development program due to publish in late 2018. When not working he sails, writes, enjoys Scottish country dancing and cherishes his wife and children (and now first grandchild).

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Dr Khalid Shah

Vice Chair of Research, Department of Neurosurgery
Director, Center for Stem Cell and Translational Immunotherapy
Director, Center for Excellence in Biomedicine 
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, US

Principal Faculty, Harvard Stem Cell Institute 


Dr. Khalid Shah is the Vice Chair of Research for the Department of Neurosurgery at BWH and a Professor at Harvard Medical School. He directs The Center for Stem and Translational Immunotherapy and also a joint Center of Excellence in Biomedicine. He is also the Principal Faculty at Harvard Stem Cell Institute in Boston.

Dr. Khalid Shah and his team have pioneered major developments in the Stem Cell therapy field, successfully developing experimental models to understand basic cancer biology and therapeutic stem cells for cancer.

 These studies have been published in a number of very high impact journals like Nature NeurosciencePNASNature Reviews Cancer, JNCIStem Cells and Lancet Oncology. Dr. Khalid Shah’s stem cell work has caught the attention in the public domain and as such it has been highlighted in the media world-wide including features on BBC and CNN. Recently, Dr. Khalid Shah’s laboratory has reverse engineered cancer cells using CRISPR/Cas9 technology and utilized them as therapeutics to treat cancer. This work was published in journal Science Translation Medicine and highlighted world-wide including features on Scientific American, New York Times and NPR. Amongst Dr. Khalid Shah’s published works are two books featuring groundbreaking insights into stem cell therapies for cancer, Stem Cell Therapeutics for Cancer (Wiley-Blackwell), and Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Cancer Therapy (Elsevier).

The potential of developing novel cancer therapies by him and his team has been recognized by many cancer alliances and associations. Based on this, he has received the young investigator award from Alliance for cancer gene therapy (ACGT), Research fellow award from American Cancer Society (ACS), Distinguished research award from Academy of Radiology and Innovation awards from James McDonnell Foundation, American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) and Goldhirsh foundation. Recently he has received Department of Defense Idea and Impact awards for his work on treating metastatic brain tumors. Dr. Shah has often been invited to serve as a grant reviewer for the NIH and has reviewed applications to granting agencies in the US, Australia, and United Kingdom, such as the European Science Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine.  Additionally, Dr. Khalid Shah has participated in the training of numerous undergraduate, graduate students and residents who have come from across the US and from 40 foreign countries. He has also received many awards for his mentorship including Young Mentor Award from Harvard University

Dr. Khalid Shah holds current positions on numerous councils, advisory and editorial boards in the fields of Cell therapy and Oncology. He has presented his findings for more than 300 academic seminars worldwide and in recent years has given various keynote lectures on Innovation and Translation of biological therapies. Dr. Khalid Shah currently holds more than 10 patents and he has founded two biotech companies whose main objective is the clinical translation of therapeutic cells in cancer patients.

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Prof Dr Paolo Salomoni

Nuclear Function Group
German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE) 
within the Helmholtz Association, University of Bonn

Honorary Professor
University College London, UK
Beijing Normal University, China

SMAB and Peer Reviewer

Prof Salomini’s professional career has spanned both the UK and US. His work comprises experimental models, patient-derived material and state-of-the art (epi)genomics, the latter supported by a strong bioinformatics/computational biology core.

Prof Salomoni has been Senior Group Leader at DZNE Bonn since 2017.

He started his PhD training at the Kimmel Cancer Center, Philadelphia, under the supervision of Bruno Calabretta. In 1999 he moved to the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, in the laboratory led by Pier Paolo Pandolfi.

After finishing his postdoctoral training at MSKCC in 2003, he moved to the Medical Research Council Unit in Leicester, where he was Programme Leader Track and then Programme Leader. Subsequently, he joined the UCL Cancer Institute as Lead of the Samantha Dickson Brain Cancer Unit and became UCL Professor of Nervous System Tumour Research.

Paolo Salomoni was a member of the British Neuro-Oncology Society (BNOS) Council until 2017.

The main focus of his group is on dissecting the relationship between interchromatin space, chromatin and transcription, and how alterations of the underlying molecular mechanisms contributes to human disease, from cancer to neurodegenerative conditions. This work carries multiple implications ranging from understanding disease etiology to the identification of druggable targets. His studies comprise experimental models, patient-derived material and state-of-the art (epi)genomics, the latter supported by a strong bioinformatics/computational biology core.

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Dr Sean Lawler

Assistant Professor, Harvard Medical School
Managing Director, Harvey Cushing Neurooncology Laboratories
Department of Neurosurgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital
Building for Transformative Medicine, Boston, US

SMAB and Peer Reviewer

Dr Lawler is a molecular biologist, having worked in both the UK and US. His lab has been investigating preclinical studies on the blood-brain barrier in glioblastoma, oncolytic virus-based immunotherapeutic strategies, as well as the role of cytomegalovirus in the promotion of tumour growth.

Dr Lawler has been working on brain tumors for the last 15 years, including at Univesity of Leeds before his move to the US in 2013.

His lab focuses on understanding the biology of glioblastoma and the development of improved therapeutic strategies.

Originally specialised in cell signaling mechanisms, his group has studied the effects of a variety of small molecule kinase inhibitors on glioblastoma cell proliferation and migration. He was one of the first investigators to characterise microRNAs in glioblastoma.  

Dr Lawler is now Managing Director of the Harvey Cushing Neuro-oncology Laboratories in the Department of Neurosurgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where his lab has been investigating preclinical studies on the blood brain barrier in glioblastoma, oncolytic virus-based immunotherapeutic strategies, as well as the role of cytomegalovirus in the promotion of tumour growth.

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Dr Neil Kad


Dr Kad is the Patient Representative on our Scientific and Medical Advisory Board, having lost his sister to a brain tumour in 2015. He is a Senior Lecturer at the University of Kent where he is studying DNA repair mechanisms at the molecular level.

Dr Kad received his BSc (Hons) Biochemistry from the University of Sheffield, and his PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Bristol under the supervision of the late Prof AR Clarke.

He then undertook a postdoctoral position studying the molecular mechanisms of dialysis related amyloidosis at the University of Leeds with Prof SE Radford FRS before spending six years at the University of Vermont, USA. Here, he studied molecular motors and developed an interest in DNA repair.

Returning to the UK Dr Kad embarked on the study of DNA repair using novel single molecule methods during his first Lectureship at the University of Essex. Dr Kad is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Kent where he is studying DNA repair mechanisms at the molecular level. DNA damage is the underlying mechanism by which cells transform into tumours and cancer. Therefore, a much clearer understanding of how DNA repair works will lead to new anti-cancer targets and a better understanding of how current methodologies work.

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Prof Steven M. Pollard

Cancer Research UK Senior Research Fellow
Chair of Stem Cell and Cancer Biology
MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, The University of Edinburgh

SMAB and Peer Reviewer

Prof Pollard’s laboratory studies the molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate neural stem self-renewal and differentiation, and how these operate in the context of human brain tumours. He is also co-leading the new Edinburgh-UCL Glioma Cellular Genetics Resource.

Steve was an undergraduate in Biochemistry at the University of Bath, which included a 6-month placement at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital (Memphis, USA).

This stimulated his interest in molecular and cellular mechanisms that control normal development, stem cells, and cancer. 

His PhD studies in zebrafish genetics were carried out at the MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) in the division of Developmental Biology (Lab of Dr Derek Stemple).

From there he moved his research into mammalian stem cell biology, working as a postdoctoral scientist with Prof Austin Smith FRS, at the University of Edinburgh, and latterly at the University of Cambridge. Here, as a Wellcome Beit Fellow he focused on neural stem cells and glioblastoma, and had a fruitful collaboration with Prof Peter Dirks (Sick Kids, Toronto). 

He established his own independent laboratory in 2010 at the new UCL Cancer Institute, before moving in 2013 to the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Edinburgh Cancer Research Centre (Edinburgh). He holds the prestigious Cancer Research UK Senior Fellowship, and in 2017 was awarded the Chair of Stem Cell and Cancer Biology.

His laboratory continues to study the molecular and cellular mechanisms that regulate neural stem self-renewal and differentiation, and how these operate in the context of human brain tumours. New technologies emerging from stem cell biology, genome editing and and mammalian synthetic biology have opened up tremendous new opportunities to tackle glioblastoma – particularly for new target discovery and drug screening.

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Dr Verena Amberger-Murphy

Translational Research Leader, 
Head of the Translational and the Radiotherapy Department
Operations Lead for CNS and paediatric tumours
Cancer Trials Ireland 

Peer Reviewer

Dr Murphy is a member of the leadership team in Cancer Trials Ireland and responsible for the oversight and execution of operational strategies for multiple programs in the oncology portfolio, and for liaising with external stakeholders (funders, other charities).

Dr Murphy graduated with a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, and worked at a variety of academic and clinical research laboratories in Germany, Switzerland, Canada and Ireland with a focus on cancer research, in particular brain tumours.

In 2009, Dr Murphy took up a position as Translational Research Coordinator in the strategic research cluster ‘Molecular Therapeutics for Cancer Ireland (MTCI)’ directed by consultant medical oncologist Prof John Crown and started working in this capacity in the All Ireland Cooperative Oncology Research Group (ICORG), today Cancer Trials Ireland. In 2015, she became Clinical Programme Leader, and in 2017 Translational Research Leader. 

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Prof Anthony J Chalmers

Peer Reviewer

Anthony Chalmers is Chair of Clinical Oncology at the University of Glasgow. In addition to his neuro-oncology clinical practice he runs the Translational Radiation Biology laboratory in the Institute for Cancer Sciences and is Chief Investigator of a series of early phase clinical trials in glioblastoma.

His research aims to improve outcomes for cancer patients by combining radiotherapy with molecular targeted drugs. He is Chair of CTRad, founder of the UK Radiotherapy-Drug Combinations Consortium (RaDCom) and a Scientific Committee member of the European Association for Neuro-Oncology (EANO) and the European Society for Radiation Oncology (ESTRO).