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23 February, 2018 - 13:42 By Kate Sweeney

Cambridge leads new children’s brain cancer hub

An unprecedented drive to develop new treatments for children’s brain cancer is being led by Cambridge University, working with The Institute of Cancer Research in London.

Backed by multimillion pound funding from Cancer Research UK, the partners are setting up a new Children’s Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence based with the two lead organisations.

Childhood brain tumour expert Professor Richard Gilbertson, who is director of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre, will lead the initiative.

The announcement comes as CRUK unveils an investment of an extra £25 million over the next five years into brain tumour research. This is in addition to the £13m spent each year on R & D of new treatments for the disease.

Cancer Research UK’s overall funding will support two new specialised centres. 

The Children’s Brain Tumour Centre of Excellence is the first of these and  brings together world-leading experts to discover and develop new treatments to tackle brain tumours in youngsters. A second centre focusing on adult brain tumours will open later in the year.

Professor Gilbertson said: “By creating a hub of expertise for childhood brain tumour research in the UK, we aim to make real inroads to tackling these diseases. 

“Gathering this expertise together means we can shine a light on the numerous challenges and difficulties that brain tumours pose and discover new treatments to ensure that more children survive their disease.”

The announcement comes as the Health and Social Care Secretary Jeremy Hunt committed an estimated £20m in funding to tackle brain tumours and deliver a step change in survival rates.

The funding will be invested through the National Institute for Health Research over the next five years – with the aim of doubling this once new high-quality research proposals become available.

Each year around 11,400 people in the UK are diagnosed with a brain tumour and just 14 per cent survive the disease for 10 or more years.

Hunt said: “While survival rates for most cancers are at record levels, the prognosis for people with brain tumours has scarcely improved in over a generation.

“Our ambition is to deliver a big uplift in the funding of brain cancer research, while galvanising the clinical and scientific communities to explore new avenues for diagnosis and treatment in the future – it is a chance to create a genuine, step change in survival rates for one of the deadliest forms of cancer.”

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, added: “Brain tumours remain a huge challenge, with survival barely improving over the last 30 years. Since we laid out our plans to tackle this challenge in 2014, Cancer Research UK has already substantially increased its funding into brain tumours and attracted some of the world’s leading experts to the UK.

“This new funding will mean that we can accelerate these efforts further, by developing a critical mass of expertise in key areas and supporting work along the entire research pipeline to improve survival for children and adults with brain tumours.”

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Professor Richard Gilbertson

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