Plymouth joins presentation of cancer research funding research report to Minister

Professor Oliver Hanemann and April Watkins will be among a group of researchers, patients, their families and supporters of Brain Tumour Research when the charity presents its report in the House of Commons on 1st July.

Professor Hanemann is recognised as one of the world’s leading experts in low grade tumours of the brain and nervous system, which typically affect the young. April is a former Sociology student from Plymouth University and graduated last year. Both were part of the team that resulted in Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry being adopted as one of four Brain Tumour Research Centres of Excellence.

The report, an update to the groundbreaking National Research Funding report issued by the charity in July last year, presents new stark facts about the impact of the disease. Startlingly, one in 50 people who die under the age of 60 years are dying from brain cancer. And, just as shockingly, 71 per cent of those who die of a brain tumour will be under 75 years old, compared to 47 per cent for all cancers.

Brain tumours are indiscriminate in the people they affect: young or old, male or female, with no regard to race. The prognosis is dependent on the type of tumour and its location in the brain; even a benign brain tumour can be life threatening and is likely to become cancerous over time. Advances in surgery can delay the inevitable, but can leave debilitating side effects. Radiation therapy and some drugs can prolong life but as yet there is no cure. To date, we do not fully understand the behaviour of tumours, let alone the cause.

The Brain Tumour Research report reinforces the need for more research funding into brain tumours, showing a large discrepancy in research funding between this and other cancers. The figures speak for themselves – 55 per cent of the national spend on site specific cancer research benefits just four cancers: breast, leukaemia, bowel and prostate. Yet, these four cancers represent only 29 per cent of those diagnosed with cancer and 27 per cent of deaths from cancer. Brain tumours currently receive just one per cent of national cancer research spend.

The Minister will be presented with two critical issues. Sue Farrington Smith, Chief Executive of Brain Tumour Research, explained: “We know funding into brain tumours needs to increase to around £30-35 million a year over a ten-year time frame. At the current rate of spend, it could take 100 years to find a cure.

“We are also calling on the government to introduce a national register of site-specific cancer research to track all research grants and research work, ensuring transparency of funding arrangements. This will allow shortcomings to be identified and prevent duplication of work.”

There is no doubt that investing in research has proven results – spending on breast, leukaemia, bowel and prostate cancers has seen remarkable improvements in treatments and therefore survival rates. Five-year survival for these four cancers is at least 46.9 per cent compared with brain cancer five-year survival of just 18.8 per cent.

Professor Oliver Hanemann, Associate Dean Research, Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, added: “We are delighted to support Brain Tumour Research in this endeavour and we are privileged to join them in this presentation to the Minister. In the case of cancer of the brain and nervous system, there is clearly huge inequality between its effect on human health and the investment being made to counter that effect.”