Plymouth scientist supports MP’s call for emergency charity research funding

A leading academic has lent his weight to calls for the government to provide emergency funding to support research carried out at three Centres of Excellence run by charity Brain Tumour Research, including one at the University.

Professor Oliver Hanemann, who is Principal Investigator at the University’s Centre, is quoted in a letter written by Derek Thomas MP, who represents St Ives, West Cornwall and The Isles of Scilly, and addressed to Health Minister Jo Churchill and Chancellor, Rishi Sunak.

Mr Thomas noted that March is Brain Tumour Awareness Month, culminating in the charity’s Wear a Hat Day fundraising campaign, and is normally followed shortly after by the London Marathon. These two events raise a significant proportion of the money needed to fund the Centres of Excellence, and both were cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr Thomas said it was “critical” that research was not interrupted, adding:

“This is why I have written both to the Chancellor and the Health Minister calling for gap-funding to see us through this year. With coronavirus medical research is now top of the agenda. Finding a cure for brain tumours has long been at the top of the agenda for families who have lived through this.”

Professor Hanemann, Chair of Clinical Neurobiology and Director of the Institute of Translational and Stratified Medicine (ITSMED) in the University’s Faculty of Health said:

“The funding support from Brain Tumour Research received for the past five years has enabled our lab to recruit and sustain scientific talent who have the potential to move the dial forward as we strive to fund breakthroughs in brain tumour research.

“It is no exaggeration to say that without this funding the growth of our research base and the progress we have made would not have happened.”

Brain Tumour Research said it is losing 70 per cent of its expected income – an immediate £1m drop in funding - as a result of the pandemic, and the recently announced package of support measures for charities is not applicable as it does not provide 'frontline' services.

It warns charity-funded research into brain tumours could stop with devastating impact, and is seeking a one-off £1m grant to keep it going.

Sue Farrington Smith MBE, Chief Executive said:

“The stark reality is that charity-funded research into brain tumours could stop and the vital progress we have made will be lost. This pandemic demonstrates to us all the importance of science but the need for scientific research into brain tumours was there before coronavirus – it will be there following coronavirus. Basic medical research is hugely reliant on charities. Indeed, members of the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) such as us contribute 66 per cent of the national spend on cancer research.

“The survival of dedicated research charities like ours will be a key point of any financial recovery. Our current financial commitments to continue research funding at our three centres for the next six months is £1.3 million and we may not be able to grant any further funds to keep research going thereafter.

“It makes sense, for the Government to make one-off grants to charities such as Brain Tumour Research, to support us during this period and give us the opportunity to provide excellent value for money for the Government in the future, by continuing to support the research it has come to rely on us to instigate and fund."

Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence

Around 16,000 people a year in the UK are diagnosed with a brain tumour. We're working with Brain Tumour Research to improve research and treatment. Brain Tumour Research is an official charity partner of the University and we are one of three universities in the UK working with the charity to improve the treatment and outcomes of brain tumours. Plymouth’s Centre of Excellence specialises in low-grade brain tumours, which are usually benign, slow-growing but ultimately can become malignant. Our focus is to identify and understand the mechanism underlying the development of brain tumours, and explore ways to halt or reverse that mechanism. 

More information about the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence 

Brain tumours are a leading threat to human health

Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, with 10 lives lost each day. This presents a stark picture for public health, particularly as there is very little understanding of what causes brain tumours and this area of research is critically underfunded – receiving only one per cent of the national spend on cancer research.

One of three dedicated centres in the UK

Our team of researchers, led by Professor Oliver Hanemann, works closely with the charity Brain Tumour Research as one of three UK universities with a Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence.

The Centre are each invested in advancing knowledge of brain tumours, building the wealth of expertise that is needed to find a cure.

More on the Brain Tumour Research charity

Low-grade brain tumours

Our team are leaders in the investigation of low-grade brain tumours, which are usually slow-growing and frequently affect children and young adults.

Such tumours can be just as devastating as malignant high-grade tumours. They can bring equally dangerous and debilitating effects to patients, by causing neurological conditions including loss of balance, weakness, cognitive problems, poor hearing, epilepsy, and personality changes. Eventually, almost all low-grade brain tumours progress to high-grade.

With close links to hospitals in Plymouth and Bristol, our work focuses on identifying and understanding the mechanisms that make a cell become cancerous and exploring ways in which to halt or reverse this process.

We are working to find new biomarkers and therapeutic targets for low-grade brain tumours, to test new drugs and to investigate how existing drugs could be re-purposed as therapies for brain tumours.




Institute of Translational and Stratified Medicine (ITSMED)

Bringing together scientists, clinicians and expertise from across the spectrum of scientific discovery, medical research and health technology, ITSMED is home to the University of Plymouth’s world-class biomedical, clinical and applied health research

Find out more about ITSMED and its research

Faculty of Health

Exceptional clinical and academic learning, social engagement and research in medicine, dentistry, nursing, psychology and health professions.

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