Funding for research into brain tumors is still inadequate, despite it being the biggest cancer killer of children and people under the age of 40. The report was published by charity Brain Tumor Research.
Fewer than 10% of people in the UK know that brain tumors kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer.
‘Report aims at addressing the underfunding of research into brain tumors and to increase the national investment on brain tumor research increased to £30 - £35 million a year. It also addresses the devastating consequences of limited treatment options for patients and families.’
The brain tumor research team at Plymouth University are European leaders in the investigation of low-grade brain tumors, which typically affect children and young adults.
The only treatments currently available for brain tumors are invasive surgery and/or radiotherapy.
The researchers focus 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 tumors, making drug therapies available to patients safely and more quickly.
Brain Tumor Research commissioned a study of over 2000 adults.
Respondents cited leukemia 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 tumors and the devastating consequences of limited treatment options for patients and families.
Brain Tumor Research is campaigning to see the national investment on brain tumor research increased to £30 - £35 million a year, in line with breast and leukemia , in order to advance treatments and ultimately find a cure.
The report 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% of brain tumor patients survive beyond five years of their diagnosis, whereas 86% of breast cancer and 51% of leukaemia patients survive beyond five years.
In 2005, five-year survival for brain tumor patients was just 14%, 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 leukemia, 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% 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%, and leukemia which reduced 12%. In contrast, people dying from brain tumors under the age of 75 increased by 10%.
The total number of people dying from brain tumors increased between 2002 and 2015 by 27%. Brain tumors now account for one in 143 of all deaths and represent 2.6% 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% since 2002, from 3,546 to 4,201 cases in 2014.
Every week, a family loses their child to a brain tumor, more than those lost, under the age of 15, to leukemia. In 2015, the number of children dying of cancer was 194, with brain tumors taking 67 of these (35%) and leukemia 46 (24%).
Since the NCRI (National Cancer Research Institute) began collating the research spend data of its funding partners in 2002, the average annual national research spend on breast cancer has been £34 million (8% of the total) and for leukemia £28 million (7%). For brain tumors the average spend was just £4 million (1%). This means £8,759 was spent on leukemia research for each death, compared with £1,858 for brain tumors and £3,872 for breast cancer.
The financial burden has fallen heavily on the third sector. In 2015, charities funded 86% of the national research into brain tumors. The charity has discovered, for the first time, that Government spend on brain tumor research represented just 0.52% of its total spend on cancer research in 2015.
Every two hours, someone is diagnosed with a brain tumor in England. The report has also uncovered a shocking postcode lottery around the country, with the North East and South East both witnessing a 40% rise in diagnosed cases (per 100,000 population), between 2011 and 2014, closely followed by London at 35%.
The South East also had the highest number of cases in total. At the other end of the spectrum, although still representing a substantial increase, was Yorkshire and the Humber with a rise of 13%. Brain Tumor Research member charity, brainstrust, estimates that 55,000 people are living with a brain tumor in the UK.
"For too long, brain tumors have been a neglected cancer," said Sue Farrington Smith, Chief Executive of Brain Tumor Research. "Along with our member charities, we have been campaigning for as long as the NCRI has been in existence to have our voices heard. The Petitions Committee has listened, highlighting that successive governments have failed brain tumor patients and their families for decades. The Government has now acknowledged that current funding is not enough. Working with the Government's "Task and Finish" group, we will be challenging the Government and larger cancer charities to bring research into brain tumors in line with other cancers, such as breast and leukemia."
Research into brain tumors at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry is led by Professor Oliver Hanemann, Associate Dean for Research. He said: "We fully support our partner Brain Tumor Research in its effective campaigns to raise awareness of and funds for research into brain tumors. Its latest report makes for difficult reading, but we hope that it will galvanize policy makers into action to provide more support our work and the work of colleagues across the country."