We were delighted to welcome some incredible supporters to our Centre of Excellence at Queen Mary University of London last Wednesday (22nd November) – all whose families had been affected by brain tumours, inspiring them to help fund the fight to find a cure.
The day was extra special because, among the 50 guests, was BBC Antiques Roadshow expert, Theo Burrell, diagnosed with a glioblastoma (GBM) in June 2022.
After refreshments, the supporter experience began with presentations from Brain Tumour Research, including Chief Executive Dan Knowles (pictured below with Theo), who also made the exciting announcement that Theo, as well as attending to place tiles on the Wall of Hope to represent her fundraising and sponsoring days of research, had agreed to become our new Patron.
Theo, mum to a two-year-old, spoke to the invited audience about her diagnosis and her motivation to support the charity saying: “It’s vital that we raise more awareness of this devastating disease to stop this happening to other families. It’s so important that more money is invested in research in order to improve treatments in future and, ultimately, to find a cure.”
Principal Investigator at Queen Mary, Professor Silvia Marino, spoke eloquently about the work being undertaken by her research team which focuses primarily on GBM – the type of brain tumour that had touched most of our families attending the event – and the most common and aggressive form of brain tumour among adults. Prof Marino outlined the strong emphasis the scientists are placing on the need to develop individualised drug treatment regimes for patients in the future, a project which is set to be of global significance in the race to find a cure for brain tumours.
Prof Marino (pictured below with Theo) said: “One of the main challenges in developing effective treatments for GBM is that the tumour exhibits significant variation between patients and there can even be significant variation within a single patient’s tumour.”
Following the presentations, our guests were taken in groups to tour the labs, enabling them the opportunity to speak directly to the scientists and ask any burning questions, as well as to see first-hand how the research was being conducted.
Among them were Abrica Bennett and her mum Jacqueline Blowers who have both had brain tumour diagnoses.
Abrica was 13 when she was diagnosed with a grade 4 medulloblastoma, another type of tumour being investigated by the team at Queen Mary. She underwent surgery and was placed in an induced coma, after which she had to learn to walk and talk again. She had radiotherapy and chemotherapy and was discharged from treatment aged 18, but, Abrica, now 32, is aware that the tumour could still come back.
Then last year, brain cancer struck the family again when Jacqueline was diagnosed with an inoperable GBM and had radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Her mum’s diagnosis inspired Abrica (pictured below with Jacqueline) to take on a charity skydive and, along with Regular Giving, she has raised more than £5,000.
Abrica said: “I was talking to someone I used to work with recently who had no idea that brain cancer existed and that’s when it hit me. Now I want to do all I can to help raise awareness of this disease and the lack of investment in research.”
At the end of their lab tour, Abrica and Jacqueline placed two tiles honouring their brain tumour journeys on the Wall of Hope and signifying the equivalent of two days of research they are sponsoring.
Among those remembered at Queen Mary was boy-band singer Tom Parker of The Wanted who died from a GBM in March 2023, aged 33. After his diagnosis, Tom became an active campaigner for better outcomes for brain tumour patients and opened proceedings at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on brain tumours (APPGBT) in December 2021, expressing his frustration at the lack of options for brain tumour patients and the truly horrific nature of his gruelling chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment.
He said: “I’m staggered they can find a cure for COVID-19 within a year but can’t find better treatments and ultimately a cure for brain tumours for decades on end.”
Tom’s mum Noreen, cousin Leanne and Leanne’s daughter Rosie were invited to Queen Mary after 11-year-old Rosie was inspired by her Uncle Tom to fundraise. Rosie had said “We need to be strong like Tom” and went on to sell home-made dog treats, which raised £1,600 for the charity and then Rosie’s Ride for Research which involved her, along with family and friends, pedalling a distance of 5km around her local cycling club’s velodrome, brought in another £1,500 in donations.
Noreen (pictured below with Rosie) said: “I’m proud of everything Tom and Rosie have done to raise awareness of brain tumours, calling for greater investment into research to help find a cure. There have been huge advancements in treating all different types of cancer which have led to much better survival rates, but sadly, as our family found to our terrible cost, that isn’t the case for brain cancer.”
Please help us continue to support the vital research going on at Queen Mary and our other Centres of Excellence so that we can build upon all that has been achieved so far and retain the specialised researchers needed to achieve our mission. Together we will find a cure.
Find out more about sponsoring a day of research.