Fewer than 20 percent of brain tumor patients survive beyond five years of their diagnosis. (Photo: AFP)
Washington D.C.: A recent report shows that funding for research into brain tumours is still woefully inadequate, despite it being the biggest cancer killer of children and people under the age of 40.
The brain tumor research team at Plymouth University focuses on identifying and understanding the mechanism that makes a cell become cancerous and exploring ways in which to halt or reverse that mechanism.
They test new drugs in human primary cell cultures and investigate how existing drugs could be re-purposed as a therapy for brain tumours, making drug therapies available to patients safely and more quickly.
This is vital work, as the only treatments currently available for brain tumors are invasive surgery or radiotherapy. According to the charity's report, fewer than 10 percent of people in the UK know that brain tumors kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer.
Brain Tumour Research commissioned a study of over 2000 adults. Respondents cited leukaemia as the biggest cancer killer of children and breast, lung and bowel as the biggest cancer killers of adults in the UK.
The charity's new National Research Funding Report is aimed at addressing the historical underfunding of research into brain tumours and the devastating consequences of limited treatment options for patients and families.
The report highlights the need for substantial funding increases from three main drivers of brain tumor research spend: Government partners of the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI);
Cancer Research UK and other charity partners of the NCRI; Brain tumour research charities supported by the general public and organisations.
Brain Tumor Research is campaigning to see the national spend on brain tumor research increased to 30 Euros - 35 million Euros a year, in line with breast and leukaemia , in order to advance treatments and ultimately find a cure.
The report also describes the stark inequalities in cancer research funding in this country, which correlate tragically to poor survival rates for brain tumor patients.
Fewer than 20 percent of brain tumor patients survive beyond five years of their diagnosis, whereas 86 percent of breast cancer and 51 percent of leukaemia patients survive beyond five years.
In 2005, five-year survival for brain tumor patients was just 14 percent, so it is encouraging to see an improving trend, partly due to scientific advances particularly for medulloblastoma in children.
However, survival is still far behind breast cancer and leukaemia, diseases that lead on levels of national research spend.
The figures demonstrate that the number of all cancer deaths of people aged under 75 actually reduced by 3.7 percent between 2002 and 2015, due to advances in research.
There was a significant lowering in the number of breast cancer deaths, which decreased by 18 percent, and leukaemia which reduced 12 percent.
In contrast, people dying from brain tumors under the age of 75 increased by 10 percent. The total number of people dying from brain tumours increased between 2002 and 2015 by 27 percent.
Brain tumors now account for one in 143 of all deaths and represent 2.6 percent of all cancer deaths. The report reveals that the incidence of brain tumors is rising.
Latest figures show that the total number of cases in England has grown 19 percent since 2002, from 3,546 to 4,201 cases in 2014. Every week, a family loses their child to a brain tumour, more than those lost, under the age of 15, to leukaemia.
In 2015, the number of children dying of cancer was 194, with brain tumours taking 67 of these (35 percent) and leukaemia 46 (24 percent). The research was funded by Brain Tumor Research.