Scientific Advisory and Peer Review

4 min read

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 and Peer Reviewers

Chair - Prof Garth Cruickshank

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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).

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.

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).


Back to Research