Brain Tumour Initiative

Brain tumours kill more children in the UK than any other cancer; they can also leave survivors with a poor quality of life. Despite this research has not been well-funded.

£1 million a year for three years

In 2014 we launched a new initiative to drive progress in childhood brain tumour research, committing funds of at least £1 million a year for three years to support new research.

This was in addition to our pre-existing funding streams which already encompass brain tumour research.

New funding for childhood brain tumour research

In March 2015, we awarded the first major project grants under this call, at a total cost of £1.81m.
In December 2016 the second phase of funding was agreed and an additional four projects were awarded at a total cost of £1.24m.
This has brought our total expenditure of the Brain Tumour Initiative to over £3m as planned in 2014.

Read more: Funding for childhood brain tumour research

With this funding, four groups of researchers are taking forward vital research into four different types of childhood brain tumour: ependymoma, medulloblastoma, craniopharyngioma and high grade glioma.

An important feature of the four grants is that they are all strongly collaborative, with researchers working together to share samples, data and expertise, both nationally and internationally.

2016 workshop on drug delivery

In February 2016, in the first event of its kind worldwide, Children with Cancer UK brought together scientists, medics, funders, patient representatives and policy-makers to focus on the specific challenge of drug delivery in childhood brain tumours.

Our brains have in-built protection from harmful substances and pathogens in the blood - in the form of the so-called 'blood brain barrier'. This means that getting drugs to reach brain tumours is a major challenge and has limited progress in the treatment of these tumours.

Scientists and clinicians from the UK were joined by leading figures from Europe, the US and Canada to share information about their research and clinical practice aimed at overcoming the blood-brain barrier to deliver effective therapy to brain tumours. Participants shared experiences and forged new collaborations to take forward the development of these techniques.

Read more: Brain Tumour Workshop blog

About childhood brain tumours

Brain tumours (or central nervous system, CNS tumours) are the most common solid tumours to occur in children, with more than 400 new cases a year in the UK. Altogether there are more than 100 different types of brain tumour, most of which are very rare.

Whilst a third of childhood brain tumours are low-grade tumours with a high survival rate, children with malignant tumours have a poor outlook. Survival rates are low and the children who do survive often have a poor quality of life as a result of the tumour and the aggressive treatments used.

For most children, treatment begins with surgery. The goal of surgery is to completely remove the tumour so that no visible tumour remains. However, the location and infiltrative nature of some tumours makes surgery exceptionally difficult and dangerous.

In many cases, radiotherapy is used to complement surgery, targeting residual tumour. Chemotherapy is also used to treat some types of brain tumour.

These aggressive treatments place young patients at risk of devastating long-term problems that severely impact on their future health and wellbeing. Many young survivors are left with permanent, life-altering disabilities.

Read more: Childhood brain tumours | Daisy was diagnosed with medulloblastoma aged two

Limited progress in research and treatment

Despite the devastation caused by childhood brain tumours, they have not attracted their fair share of research funding. This has limited progress in research and treatment.

This contrasts with the picture for childhood leukaemia, which has historically attracted generous research funding. Sustained investment in childhood leukaemia research has transformed the disease from one which was almost universally fatal 50 years ago to one which almost 90 per cent of patients now survive.

We are now turning the same focus on brain tumours.

Read more: New grants for brain tumour researchOur Brain Tumour Campaign

Where your money goes

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