A new All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) have published their report on how the government can support brain tumour research in the UK. The two-year inquiry followed the announcement in 2018 that the government would invest £45m in brain tumour research.
The report highlighted some serious shortcomings in the funding process, which is hindering research and limiting access to potentially lifesaving clinical trials. Despite the promises, only £15m has been spent on research in the past five years. The report acknowledges the failings, stating:
“No new treatments and the five-year survival for patients is still just 12%. Brain tumours remain the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under the age of 40. Of the £40 million Government commitment, on 25th January 2023 just £15 million had been awarded since June 2018, with £6 million of this not easily identifiable as relevant to brain tumours”.
Furthermore, The Guardian reports that £6m of the awarded £15m funds were not directly relevant to brain tumours and no new treatments have been developed and trialled. Funding for research on brain tumours amounts to just 1% of all cancer research spending in the UK.
The Chair of the APPG, Derek Thomas, said that there were fundamental problems in the way the funding was administered, with too much red tape and unclear paths of communication.
He commented: “[…] our investigations have revealed a concerning lack of deployment of these funds, with just £15m reaching the hands of researchers in the five years since it was promised.”
“We are hearing that the current system is too complicated, it doesn’t connect laboratory work with what is happening in clinics, that there is no up-to-date and robust database for people to understand if they could be eligible for clinical trials, and that far too little of the money previously promised has reached the hands of the researchers who can make a difference.”
He added: “The sad fact is that brain tumour patients do not have the luxury of time. The government must act now in order to recognise brain tumour research as a critical priority, appoint a champion, and ringfence sufficient funds to make a difference.”
The Chief Scientific Officer of the Brain Tumour Research Charity, David Jenkinson, was on the enquiry panel. Sue Farrington Smith, the chief executive of the charity, said: “It really is time the government stopped talking and recognised brain tumour research as a critical priority that needs their leadership and real action.”
How are brain tumours treated?
Currently, the treatment for adult brain tumours include neurosurgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and stereotactic surgery. A combination of two or more of these treatments may be used.
Stereotactic surgery, sometimes called Gamma Knife radiosurgery, is one of the most advanced techniques. 3D images of the brain are produced, and these are used to precisely target low doses of radiation at the tumour site. The beams are directed to overlap at the tumour site while leaving the healthy tissue undamaged.