A letter, a minute's silence and the role of radiotherapy

5 min read

At Brain Tumour Research our disease area is headline news every week, but cancer has been a headline subject for the whole country this week with news of the King's diagnosis.

We wish His Majesty well for his course of treatment and for a quick and complete recovery.

Other stories this week involved a report commissioned by Cancer Research UK which said progress in UK cancer survival was now slower than it has been for 50 years. The study said the UK lagged behind comparable countries, such as Australia, Canada, Denmark and Norway, in tackling the disease.

There was news of hope as the first UK patients are to receive experimental messenger RNA cancer therapy laying crucial groundwork that could help develop less toxic and more precise new anti-cancer therapies. Startingly this week the World Health Organisation (WHO) has predicted that global cancer cases to rise by more than 75% by 2050.

Our headline news last week was that we took the voices of more than 81,000 of you to Westminster. The box that you see our Patron Danny Clarke holding in the photo below contained a letter to the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and, while we await the response from the PM, we thought you'd be interested to read the letter's full contents.

Dear Prime Minister

This letter accompanies a petition with the signatures of 81,336 people who are demanding the Government delivers game-changing investment into brain tumours.

Given the right investment, the next five years could see significant breakthroughs leading to cures for this devastating disease.

Other cancers have significant research investment and this has led to cures and longer lives.

We need to see the same investment and the same progress for brain tumours.

Source: NCRI CaRD, 2022. Cancer Research Database 2021 NCRI, s.l.: NCRI CaRD

  • Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer
  • The annual economic cost of brain tumours in people of working age is £578m
  • In the last 20 years, research spend in the UK on breast cancer has been six times more than brain tumours and leukaemia has received four times more funding
  • Since the 1970s, 10 year survival rates for breast cancer have doubled and, in the case of leukaemia, increased six-fold
  • UK universities now deliver world-class research and are poised to make further breakthroughs

Now is the time to invest in our globally-leading research institutions in order to deliver cures.

In a letter to a constituent dated 10th January, you wrote that you recognised “the urgency of accelerating research into brain tumours and finding new treatments so that survival and quality of life for patients can be improved”.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Brain Tumours report Pathway to a cure – breaking down the barriers called for a £110 million investment of current and new funding to kick-start an increase in the national investment in research into brain tumours to £35 million a year by 2028 and bring brain tumours in line with the spend on cancers of the breast, bowel, lung and leukaemia.

The petition calls for the UK Government to ring-fence £110 million of current and new funding to kick start an increase in the national investment in research into brain tumours to £35 million a year by 2028.

Furthermore, we are asking the Government to prioritise investment in research into brain tumours, and specifically support the work of the Brain Tumour Research Centres of Excellence based at the University of Plymouth, Imperial College, the Institute for Cancer Research, and Queen Mary University of London.

We call on you in your capacity as Prime Minister to take notice of this petition and to support this report by making the investment needed to find cures and save lives.

We urge you to listen to the voices of the brain tumour community, to make change and deliver much-needed hope.

Yours in hope and on behalf of UK brain tumour patients and their families,

Dan Knowles,


Brain Tumour Awareness Month was launched in 2004 by a group of charities that went on to become founding members of Brain Tumour Research. Every March, we lead the way with a packed programme of activities to raise vital awareness and funds to get closer to our vision of finding a cure for all types of brain tumours. 

This year, as we celebrate our 15th anniversary, there are many ways you can get involved during Brain Tumour Awareness Month to bring hope to the one in three people who knows someone affected by this devastating disease.

On Friday 1st March, at 11am, a minute’s silence will be observed at our four Centres of Excellence.

We will also mark this moment of remembrance at our Head Office and online – if you would like to join us via Zoom email me, hugh@braintumourresearch.org and I'll send you the link.

We would love you to join us for this poignant moment in time – an annual event that is so special to all of us at Brain Tumour Research.

The Labour Party recently unveiled its plans for the Life Sciences sector. The announcement is the latest in several which highlight life sciences as a priority sector for Labour in terms of investment and reform. The proposed NHS Innovation and Adoption Strategy, announced originally in Labour’s Health Mission, will be vital for ensuring the system pulls through innovation and provides a clear, patient-focused outcome. 

The plan recognises pharmaceutical research as the main sector benefiting from £10 billion per year additional investment. It also acknowledges the role that clinical trials play in tackling health inequalities across the UK, making commitments to improve diverse participation in clinical trials, accelerating recruitment and prioritising decentralised trials through virtual participation in partnership with the devolved nations.

The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, took a question on Life Sciences after his keynote speech at Labour's recent business conference. Mike Archer, from AstraZeneca complimented Labour’s plans for the Life Sciences sector and asked specifically about Labour’s plans to improve and expand medicines manufacturing.

Sir Keir said: “We’ve got to recognise that the Life Sciences is a very important sector already, and it will be crucial as we go forward. It’s one of the sectors that can drive forward the growth that we need. We need a strategy, and we need to work out what the challenges are going forward. With the vaccine, we had a taskforce that went very fast to achieving an outcome. That sense of a taskforce approach that goes across government departments, so that you’re not knocking on this door one day and another door the next day. Our aim is to create a more dynamic way of delivering in government.”

Brain Tumour Research this week attended the Radiotherapy Vision event at Westminster – which was supported by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Radiotherapy.

At the event, which was attended by APPGBT members Daisy Cooper MP, John McDonnell MP and Greg Smith MP, Radiotherapy UK informed us about radiotherapy treatment.

Radiotherapy is an essential component of curative cancer treatment. It is needed by one in two cancer patients and contributes to the cure in 40% of cases. Radiotherapy is personalised to each patient. In the UK, radiotherapy has high training standards and enjoys extremely high degrees of quality and safety.

Radiotherapy UK is calling for better planning, long-term planning and investment in radiotherapy, through a National Plan for Radiotherapy. This, it hopes, will lead to improved patient outcomes, better quality of life, improved expertise, and enhanced productivity. With a National Plan, radiotherapy has the potential to transform cancer treatment, deliver extra capacity and enhance patient outcomes in the UK. The report can be accessed here.

John McDonnell (left) joined the team from Radiotherapy UK

At the event brain tumour activist Andy Tudor chatted to Thomas about his personal experience of having a brain tumour.

He said: “I’m a one in two. A bit more soberingly, I’m one of the 12% of people who survive five years after a brain tumour diagnosis. When I say I’m pleased to be here, I genuinely am pleased to be here.”

Andy spoke to the audience about his brain tumour treatment, which included radiotherapy.

“Eight years ago, now, I had my brain tumour first diagnosed in A&E. Then I had major brain surgery. I’ve got a 12-inch scar on my head. It was a major, traumatic experience. I made a good recovery from that and then two years ago I had recurrence of the brain tumour which was treated by radiotherapy. Because it was discovered, it was about the size of a grape – which in my world is quite small for a brain tumour. For others, it isn’t. It was then treated with radiotherapy. Let me tell you, as a patient and for me personally, radiotherapy was so much better than brain surgery.”

He shared his personal strategy of dealing with a brain tumour diagnosis: “There are four things that you need. They’re all four-letter words. Plan, hope, love – from your loved ones, and luck.

“No offence to the Government's major conditions strategy, but when you’re sat next to the consultant and they tell you about your life-threatening condition, you don’t think about a 10-year vision. We need to make sure that patients get the treatment they need at the time they need it. That’s going to improve the lives and mental health of tens of thousands of people.”

Andy and Thomas

That is it for this week.

We will be taking a short break next week and will return with all the campaigning news, including a meeting of the APPGBT, in a fortnight on 23rd February.

Wishing you all a peaceful time until then and as always thank you all for your support.

Hugh and Thomas

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