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If only brain tumour research could be funded in the same way as leukaemia and other cancers

New MRC scheme opens deprioritised pharmaceutical compounds for research

The world’s largest collection of deprioritised pharmaceutical compounds are being made available to academic researchers through a partnership between the Medical Research Council and seven global pharmaceutical companies. This scheme sees 68 compounds released for research and has the potential to develop a new range of treatments in diseases where options are limited, such as brain tumours. We are delighted such a scheme has been produced.

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Deprioritised pharmaceutical compounds are bonds of chemicals or drugs that have undergone some degree of development but stalled in their early development because they were not sufficiently effective against the disease they were produced to fight. The compounds can however be ‘repurposed’ into research and trials for other diseases. In time they may produce a series of treatments that can fight diseases and save thousands of lives. Many of the compounds released in this current scheme have been tested on humans and were developed initially to tackle a wide range of diseases including cancers. At least 24 are known to be able to cross into the brain, which makes them potentially ground-breaking for to researcher into brain tumours.

Repurposing of drugs is a vital route for research into brain tumours. This scheme is excellent news for the development of research for brain tumours and we hope that more companies, and more compounds, will be added as the scheme progresses.

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Charity coalition pledges millions for brain disease research

charitycoalitionstoryBrain Tumour Research is delighted to welcome the news of a £30 million international charity coalition investment into diseases of the brain, called The Neurodegeneration Medicines Acceleration Programme.

The fund, comprising Neuro–MAP’s partners Alzheimer’s Association US, Alzheimer Research UK, Alzheimer’s Society UK, ALS Association, Michael J Fox Foundation, MND Association, MRC Technology, Northern Health Science Alliance and Parkinson’s UK, will aim to provide innovative drugs and treatments to several diseases that have a great level of unmet need.

The coalition will concentrate their investigations by looking at motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s and dementia, but their work will also inform studies into brain tumours. This research, unlike generic research into cancer, will significantly increase understanding of the brain and in particular how it copes with disease. This coalition is a great step forward for the study of neurologic diseases and will likely produce treatments for thousands of people.

However, despite these benefits we would urge the Government to ensure that there is a substantial increase in funding research into brain tumours. Despite brain tumours being the largest cancer killer of children and adults under 40, with deaths increasing over the last 10 years, research into finding a cure received only £6.8 million last year from NCRI members and overall just 1% of the national spend on cancer research. Brain tumour patients need a commitment from Government to significantly increase funding to tackle this deadly disease and we are leading the campaign for change.

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Increased support for GPs to diagnose cancer

The announcement of increased support for GPs to diagnose cancer last week is an extremely welcome step by the Government and we fully support the programme. Earlier diagnosis and prompt treatment are essential to saving lives in the fight against cancer and we call on the new support to be as wide ranging as possible, including the symptoms of rarer cancers such as brain tumours.

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By diagnosing a cancer early we are in a much better position to treat and cure it. Far more options are open to doctors and there is the chance to catch the tumour before it has grown or spread to levels where an operation or other treatment is not feasible. There is a clear correlation between survival rate and early diagnosis but unfortunately in the UK far too many people are being diagnosed when their tumour is already in an advanced stage.

The Route to Diagnosis project by the National Cancer Intelligence Network has found that 23% of all cancers are diagnosed in A&E as an emergency. This figure is even more shocking when broken down to brain tumours and CNS cancer, where 58% of all patients are diagnosed late as an emergency presentation.  On top of this, the Government has announced that the target of 85% of cancer patients treated within 62 days of referral has been missed. 15,000 patients waited longer than the 62 day target, the worst performance the NHS has recorded on this current measure.

Thousands of patients could be saved if diagnosed earlier and treated faster and we hope that this new project will be the beginning of shift towards better care for cancer patients.

The new guidelines for GPs are open for a public consultation which Brain Tumour Research will take part in. While we support the general aim of the project we will argue that focus for GPs should be on symptoms of less common cancers as these are where patients are most likely to face a late diagnosis. It is of course difficult for GPs to diagnose cancers such as brain tumours as they do not see the symptoms often, with the average GP only seeing very few brain cancer patients a year. This difficulty is exactly why the Department of Health and NHS need to focus on ensuring the support is there for GPs to spot these cancers and save lives.

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Increase in cancer survival shows power of research

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Only through long-term, sustainable research can we find the cure for brain tumours.

We echo Cancer Research’s headline from their latest report following the release of the latest Office of National Statistics report on survival rates.

We welcome their report and – as reported by us on Friday 31st October – the encouraging news that for brain tumours five-year survival has increased by 1% to 19.8% but this is still significantly lower than many other cancers.

http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-us/cancer-news/news-report/2014-10-31-increase-in-cancer-survival-shows-power-of-research

“Cancer remains a huge challenge,” said Professor Peter Johnson, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician.

“Although we have made great progress against it, it’s still the highest cause of deaths in England and Wales, accounting for more than one in four of all deaths in 2013. This is partly because people in the UK are living longer.

“Cancer is more common in older people because there is more time for faults in cells to develop – these faults trigger the disease.”

Survival rates among cancer patients have doubled in the last four decades thanks to increased research, with experts aiming to see three-quarters of people surviving the disease within the next 20 years.

But for some types of cancer there has been little improvement. Pancreatic, lung, oesophageal and brain tumour survival rates continue to buck the positive trend.

More than 8 out of 10 people affected by cancers of the breast (in women), prostate, testis and thyroid gland, and for Hodgkin lymphoma and melanoma of the skin, now survive for at least five years, as medical advances come to the fore.

“This increase in survival shows the power of research – thanks to better treatments, earlier diagnosis and greater awareness, more people are surviving cancer than ever before,” said Nick Ormiston-Smith, head of statistical information at Cancer Research UK.

In comparison, the outlook for cancers of the brain, lung, oesophagus, liver, pancreas, stomach and for mesothelioma remains a challenge. Five-year survival in these cases is less than 22%, while for pancreatic cancer the figure sits at 5%.

Professor Johnson warned there is still much to do when it comes to cancer survival rates:

“Earlier diagnosis, access to the right treatment at the right time, and preventing the disease through lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking all play a role in beating cancer.”

The final thought on this comes from our Chief Excecutive, Sue Farrington Smith: “We must continue to fund long-term brain tumour research through our Centres of Excellence. As yet we do not fully understand the behaviour of all 120+ types of brain tumour nor do we understand the causes, so brain tumours cannot be prevented. Please help us fund the fight to improve treatments and find the cure.”

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New Cancer Survival Statistics

The Office for National Statistics cancer survival statistics released yesterday (Adults Diagnosed 2008 to 2012, followed up to 2013) show once again that Brain tumours continue to have one of the poorest survival rates of all cancers. Only 19.8% of patients survive five years after their initial diagnosis, the 19th highest out of the 24 common cancers published, with a marginal improvement of only 1% since the 2007 – 2011 statistics.

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Brain tumour one year survival rates now stand at 45%, sharply falling to 19.8% after five years, and have not improved at the same rates as other cancers. As Cancer Research UK’s report earlier this year highlighted, brain tumour survival rates have increased by 7.5% since the 1970s while overall cancer survival rates doubled from around 25% to more than 50%.

Brain tumours kill more children and adults under 40 than any other cancer and have not achieved comparable survival rates over the last 40 years of other cancers. Despite this it received only £6.8 million a year from NCRI members for research into new treatments in 2013. The only way to improve upon the figures released today is to substantially increase in research funding. Without increased funds, researchers with new, ground-breaking ideas will be deterred from working in brain tumour research simply due to the lack of funding opportunities and we continue to see only 19.8% of those diagnosed with brain tumours will survive five years.

ONS: http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/rel/cancer-unit/cancer-survival-in-england–adults-diagnosed/2008-to-2012–followed-up-to-2013/stb-cancer-survival.html

Cancer Resarch UK: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-us/cancer-news/press-release/2014-04-29-half-of-all-cancer-patients-now-survive-at-least-10-years

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