Trustees, MPs and Scientists

4 min read

The Trustees of Brain Tumour Research (some of whom are pictured above) act as our ‘critical friends’ and are vital members of our team, helping to guide us closer to a cure with their unique expertise. This week we have been meeting with their Policy & Stakeholders Sub-Committee. This sub-committee was created in response to our mission to increase investment in research into brain tumours, and our current activities and future strategic and operational plans came under review in this termly meeting.

This policy microscope was focused on our soon to be launched Manifesto for 2024 and beyond, the #BrainTumourPetition hand-in happening next Wednesday at Number 10 (and we look forward to seeing many of you there), our role as Secretariat of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Brain Tumours (APPGBT) and their termly meetings (the next one being on 20th February), our plans for the General Election and our ongoing collaborations and partnerships.

To have the detailed scrutiny of our 'critical friend' on matters like this with their thoughtful, probing and supportive questioning makes us sure that as the campaigning and policy team of Brain Tumour Research we are on the right track and are following a pathway that fits with the charity's vision, mission and values. 


Dan Carden MP's question to the Secretary of State for Health that we mentioned last week has been answered.

He asked what steps are being taken to improve (a) diagnosis and (b) outcomes for people with glioblastomas.

Health Minister Andrew Stephenson's written reply was that: "The Government is committed to improving the survival rates for all cancers. The Department and NHS England are working on implementing interventions to diagnose cancer early. When cancer is diagnosed early, there are often more curative treatment options, and this is associated with better survival.

"The Government is working jointly with NHS England on implementing the delivery plan for tackling the COVID-19 backlogs in elective care and plans to spend more than £8 billion from 2022/23 to 2024/25 to help drive up and protect elective activity, including cancer diagnosis and treatment activity.

"To find and diagnose all cancers earlier, NHS England is streamlining cancer pathways to support diagnosis within 28 days. This is supported by the roll-out of 150 community diagnostic centres so far to increase capacity for diagnostic tests, with capacity prioritised for cancer diagnostics.

"In May 2018, the Government announced £40 million of funding for brain tumour research as part of the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission through the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). This includes research into glioblastoma. NIHR has funded four projects into glioblastoma research since financial year 2018, with a combined total funding value of £2.7 million."

A question asked at Holyrood by Shadow Health Minister Paul Sweeney, MSP (pictured above with Thomas at last year's Labour Party Conference) was answered this week.

Mr Sweeney asked the Scottish Government what support its Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy directorates are providing for the life sciences sector to increase research into brain tumours.

He was answered on Monday by Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy, Neil Gray, who wrote: "Public sector support for research and development does not sit within the Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy portfolio. This support is directed and delivered by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC).

"SFC strategic initiatives, such as Alliances for Research Challenges, Innovation Centres, and Research Pools, aim to harness our research and knowledge exchange capabilities across a number of priority areas, including Life Sciences.

"The Scottish Government continues to support high-quality research and innovation across Scotland, and has increased the investment in higher education capital to over £350m for 2024-25.

"Within the Scottish Government, funding of Health and Care Research comes under the remit of the Chief Scientist Office (CSO). CSO provides funding support through NHS Research Scotland who are currently supporting 13 Brain Tumour Clinical studies with over 190 patients recruited.

"Additionally, Scottish Enterprise are an active investor and collaborative partner supporting the life sciences sector."

Your feedback tells us that, as campaigners, you also like to hear our research news and we are thrilled to share that a simple blood test could help diagnose high-grade brain tumours in the future sparing patients from high-risk surgery. The new technique has been proven for glial tumours including glioblastoma (GBM), the most commonly diagnosed high-grade brain tumour in adults.

The findings of a clinical study which took place at the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at Imperial College London could mean patients with suspected high-grade gliomas, including GBM, astrocytomas and oligodendrogliomas, could get quicker confirmation of the presence of a glioma tumour, potentially speeding up the start of their treatment. It could also eliminate the need for surgical biopsies which carry significant risk, particularly for those with underlying health conditions.

Crucially, as well as speeding up diagnoses in patients who cannot have biopsies – which is vital for fast-growing, highly aggressive cases – this new technology is inexpensive and simple to implement within the clinic setting, meaning that it can easily be adopted by clinicians to improve care.  

The work has already attracted the attention of the body responsible for advancing public health in the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and hopes are now of a larger study here in the UK which, if successful, could mean patients with suspected high-grade tumours benefit from this breakthrough in as little as two years.

Dr Nel Syed, (pictured here and above with our Director of Research, Policy and Innovation, Dr Karen Noble) who leads our Centre at Imperial, said: "A non-invasive, inexpensive method for the early detection of brain tumours is critical for improvements in patient care. There is still some way to go, but this solution could help people where a brain biopsy or surgical resection of the tumour is not possible due to the location of the tumour or other constraints. Through this technology, a diagnosis of inaccessible tumours can become possible through a risk-free and patient-friendly blood test. We believe this could be a world-first as there are currently no non-invasive or non-radiological tests for this type of tumour."

The TriNetra-Glio blood test works by isolating tumour cells that have broken free from the tumour circulating in the blood. The isolated cells are then stained and can be identified under a microscope. The work has been funded by Datar Cancer Genetics.

Subject: APPG on Brain Tumours 20th February 17:00 – 18:00 Committee Room 15  

Dear <Your MP’s name> 

The APPG on Brain Tumours will be taking place in Committee Room 15 on Tuesday 20th February from 17:00 – 18:00 and will be chaired by Derek Thomas MP. An agenda and a briefing document from the charity Brain Tumour Research who provide the APPG’s secretariat will be forthcoming in due course and Hugh from the charity is Cc’d.

As your constituent, and as someone who is passionate about improving options and outcomes for brain tumour patients I am asking if you could please make space in your diary and join that meeting. 

It would be hugely appreciated. 
<Your Name> 
<Your postal address and postcode> 

That is it for this week.

Looking forward to seeing some of you at Westminster next week – there will be photos to show in next Friday's update

Wishing you all a peaceful time until then.

Hugh and Thomas

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