It is a condition that kills more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer; its mortality rate within a year of diagnosis is an appalling 55 per cent – and the number of cases has risen by 25 per cent over the past 30 years – with the South West topping the list in cases per million. And yet it receives just one per cent of national spending on cancer research.
It is against this sobering backdrop that University of Plymouth has taken a stand, partnering with a leading national charity to establish a Centre of Excellence in its medical school, underpinned by fundraising and awareness-raising to support ongoing research.
“Brain tumour research is woefully underfunded,” said Professor Oliver Hanemann, who is the Associate Dean for Research in the University of Plymouth Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, and lead for the centre. “This means a critical lack of researchers to investigate the condition and more effective treatments – at this rate it could take another 100 years to find a cure.
“Plymouth’s Centre of Excellence specialises in low-grade brain tumours, which are slow-growing but ultimately can become malignant. Our focus is to identify and understand the mechanism underlying their development and explore ways to halt or reverse it.”
The University was chosen as one of Brain Tumour Research’s official Centres of Excellence last year, in recognition of the expertise embodied by Professor Hanemann and his team in researching these tumours. Plymouth was the fourth national centre to be chosen, and each has pledged to provide support with up to £1 million per year in funding.
“The Brain Tumour Research campaign is our first major project in terms of strategic fundraising and will be one of a number that we will support from across the University under the umbrella of ‘Campaign’,” said Christian Burden, Director of the Development Office. “The Campaign will showcase our strengths and aspirations as a university, and will be very much driven by the faculties with our support. In the case of Brain Tumour Research, this is all about Oliver and his team; they are the reason why we got behind the application to become a partner to Brain Tumour Research, and they are the reason why we now have a global reputation for research in this field.”
The Development Office, which brings together Alumni Engagement, Campaign, Fundraising, Events, Partnerships, and Community Engagement, is now looking at ways to engage with stakeholders, including alumni, in support of the projects – whether ‘in kind’ or financial.
One of those, in the case of Brain Tumour Research, is Benjamin Mee, Director of Dartmoor Zoological Park, and an Honorary Doctor of Science at University of Plymouth. Benjamin lost his wife to a brain tumour in 2007 and has backed the project with awareness raising events at the zoo.