Open Days at our Centres of Excellence

5 min read

We were delighted to open the doors of two of our four Centres of Excellence this month to supporters whose fundraising is sponsoring vital days of research. It’s not only a fantastic opportunity for fundraisers to learn about the exciting developments in research being achieved through their donations, but also a very welcome chance for Brain Tumour Research team members to meet supporters face-to-face.

Supporters at Plymouth to hear about how scientists are working towards better outcomes.

On Thursday 5th October, scientists at our Centre of Excellence at the University of Plymouth, were keen to demonstrate why their Centre is the UK’s leading specialist research centre for low-grade brain tumours. In his presentation, lead investigator Professor David Parkinson emphasised how these tumours can transform into high-grade brain tumours and can cause long-term and life-changing challenges for patients, so it’s vital researchers explore ways to halt or slow their growth.

Postman Jonathan (pictured below), now 41, was diagnosed with a germ cell brain tumour aged 20 after he’d been drinking 10 litres of water a day for two years. He took on a skydive earlier this year, enjoying wonderful views over the Cornish coast at sunset, which enabled him to raise enough to be able to sponsor the equivalent of two days of research.

He said: “To visit the lab and meet scientists who are working tirelessly to find a cure for the disease was emotional. I am so grateful to everybody who sponsored my skydive which has enabled me to fund vital research to help others affected by brain tumours.”

Nine-year-old Isla’s diagnosis in January 2022 led to her Axbridge C of E First School organising a Fun Run fundraiser for Brain Tumour Research. The school’s Head attended the Plymouth event along with Isla, her sister Anya and parents David and Sarah.  

Sarah said: “It’s very hard to live with the fact that Isla’s tumour may return, especially as we’ve been told that they’ve exhausted all known treatments. We just have to live every day in the moment and celebrate that Isla is a healthy and happy girl now.”

Our Centre of Excellence at Imperial College London welcomed supporters on Thursday 12th October. As is customary, the afternoon started with presentations from the charity and from Centre lead(s), followed by tours of the labs conducted by scientists working there and finishing with the often emotional placing of tiles on the Wall of Hope, dedicated to lost loved ones or those fighting the disease.

Dr Giulio Anichini presenting

Our partnership with Imperial College encompasses both surgical and research teams and Neurosurgeon and Research Fellow Dr Giulio Anichini explained how his team, led by leading neurosurgeon Mr Kevin O’Neill, is exploring ways to develop new tools, techniques and procedures in order to improve outcomes for patients and optimise the complex science of neurosurgery.

A “bionic eye” is being developed to make neurosurgery safer and more effective, especially when surgeons are removing glioma, including glioblastoma (GBM), because these tumours are diffuse, infiltrating healthy brain tissue with no visible boundary.  

Senior Research Fellow Dr Nelofer Syed (pictured above) leads the research team focusing on many aspects of brain tumour biology, including how tumour cells get their energy, how existing drugs can be made more effective, and how artificial intelligence can bring greater insights into personalised treatments. Nel’s team was the first to identify the fact that arginine (an amino acid and one of the building blocks of protein) is used differently by brain cancer cells compared to healthy brain cells and that by manipulating the relevant metabolic pathways, arginine levels could be used to influence tumour growth.

Elaine was at Imperial to remember her daughter Holly who died just 10 months after diagnosis in December 2015, aged 29. As PA to the Head, Elaine introduced Ashford Prep School to Wear A Hat Day that same year and Ashford hasn’t looked back, adding to Elaine’s incredible fundraising efforts which collectively have raised a grand total of more than £19,000.

Placing seven tiles dedicated to Holly on the Wall of Hope, Elaine was accompanied by Holly’s son Harrison, who was just seven when his mum died, as well as Holly’s sister Laura, dad Graham and step-mum Sarah.

Elaine said: “Holly wanted me to make everybody aware of how awful brain tumours are. I promised I’d do all I could to make that happen and by supporting Brain Tumour Research I’ve been able to do that.”

Pictured above with husband Marc, Laura was diagnosed with an astrocytoma in 2016 and despite having surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, her latest scan showed the tumour had grown. Despite this, she has been fundraising with a variety of events including a skydive.

Laura said: “The money I’ve raised is to help everyone affected by brain tumours because the more we put into it the more we’ll get out.”

Hope suffers with neuralgia, as well as double vision, tiredness, headaches and pain in her eyes as a result of her diagnosis and treatment for a meningioma. She has taken up sea swimming, meeting up with The Pevensey Plungers most mornings. She said: “I’ve found that cold water immersion helps with my neuralgia to some extent.”

Last year Hope took part in our Swim Challenge in August, raising an incredible £4,000. She has since held a silent disco and a birthday bash.

With daughter Biba at Imperial, Hope added: “I’m grateful to be alive and know I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for past research so visiting the lab was very meaningful.”

Our vision is to find a cure for all types of brain tumours which we will achieve through increasing the UK investment in brain tumour research and creating a network of seven sustainable Centres of Excellence across the UK. We can’t do this without each and every one of our incredible supporters. Together we will find a cure.

To find out more about sponsoring a day of research go to

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