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.
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 one of only 19 partner organisations 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?
- Do the third party Grants Awarded represent good strategy and progress?
- Are key performance indicators set the previous year being achieved?
- Is the Centre producing the expected 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 every member 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.
Comments and scores are then amalgamated into anonymised reports and spreadsheets and submitted in an unabridged format 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.
In addition to the SMAB review process, each Centre is visited by a team from Brain Tumour Research so that the reports can be discussed in person. The team consists of Sue Farrington Smith MBE (Chief Executive), the Director of Finance and Operations and the Director of Research. This enables any questions arising from the reports to be clarified and fed back to the Research Sub-Committee alongside the SMAB reviews.
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.
This gives the Centre an opportunity to review their portfolio and apply for an extension to their original funding that may 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 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 one or two members to accompany charity Research Sub-Committee members on Quinquennial Review site visits
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.
SMAB members do not have tenure: so receive no payment for their services. 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 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 Chairman, Department of Neurosurgery
Director, Center for Stem Cell Therapeutics and Imaging
Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Boston, US
Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School
Dr Shah has pioneered major developments in stem cell therapy. Work from his laboratory has resulted in the formation of a biotech company whose main objective is the clinical translation of therapeutic stem cells in brain tumour patients.
He is the Vice Chair of Neurosurgery and the Director of Center for Stem Cell Therapeutics and Imaging (CSTI) at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School.
He is also the Principal Faculty at Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the co-Director of the joint Center of Excellence in Biomedicine (CEBM) in Boston.
Dr. Shah and his team have pioneered major developments in the stem cell therapy field. With a special interest in tumours that are resistant to drugs and oncolytic viruses, they have developed bi-modal therapeutic molecules and an oncolytic herpes virus that can be delivered by stem cells. They have demonstrated that different stem cell types target specific sites of cerebral pathology, and when armed with therapeutic transgenes can simultaneously target cell death (apoptosis) and proliferation pathways (anti-angiogenic) in brain tumours.
They have also developed immunomodulatory stem cells to boost tumour resection induced CD4/8 T cells, hence supporting a positive immune response to enhance surgical results. The next phase is to move into clinical trials in humans, to fulfil Dr Shah’s vision of creating a therapeutic offering for cancer that will positively impact the quality of life of individuals affected across the Globe.
His team are also successfully developing clinically translatable experimental models of primary, recurrent and metastatic brain tumours, used to understand basic cancer biology and hence for a number of purposes, including the screening of new and repurposed drugs.
Dr. Shah holds current positions on numerous councils, advisory and editorial boards in the fields of stem cell therapy and oncology, including the American Society of Neuro-Oncology (SNO). The work from his laboratory has also resulted in the formation of a biotech company whose main objective is the clinical translation of therapeutic stem cells in brain tumour patients.
Prof Dr Paolo Salomoni
Nuclear Function Group
German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE)
within the Helmholtz Association, University of Bonn
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.
Prof Tracy Warr
Co-Director of the Brain Tumour Research Centre
Research Institute in Healthcare Sciences
Faculty of Science and Engineering
University of Wolverhampton
Third Military Medical University Chongqing, China
Since 2009, Prof Warr has led a research programme the University of Wolverhampton aimed at improving outcome for paediatric and adult glioma through identification and validation of therapeutic targets, particularly in metabolic processes, with an emphasis on drug repositioning.
Prof Warr graduated with a PhD in Genetics from University of Wales, Swansea in 1991 prior to embarking on a research career in oncology.
She has over 25 years of experience in experimental neuro-oncology, initially at the Institute of Neurology, University College London where she established her own laboratory research group focused on understanding the genetic mechanisms that drive development in paediatric brain tumours, predominantly astrocytoma and ependymoma.
Since 2009, she has led a research programme the University of Wolverhampton aimed at improving outcome for paediatric and adult glioma through identification and validation of therapeutic targets, particularly in metabolic processes, with an emphasis on drug repositioning.
Prof Warr has served on the NCRN Brain Tumour Novel Agents and Translational Research Sub-group and as a member of the British Neuro-Oncology Society (BNOS) Council. She has sat on grant assessment panels for Children with Cancer UK and Ali’s Dream and acted as a scientific representative at the Brain Tumour All-Party Parliamentary Group.
She has supervised 15 PhD students and over 40 Masters students in neuro-oncology research projects and is passionate about enthusing young scientists to pursue research careers and supporting their development into independent research investigators.
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.
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.Read more Show less
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.
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
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.
Prof Anthony J Chalmers
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).