According to scientists, a continuous lack of funding has placed brain tumours in the category of ‘poor cousin’ of cancer research.
The chief executive of the Brain Tumour Research (BTR) charity, Sue Farrington Smith, said the recent sad story about Ashya King and the problems her family faced have placed a spotlight on brain tumours and it is being discussed more now than ever before. It has also brought consciousness to the public.
Five-year old Ashya King is currently receiving proton beam treatment at a Czech clinic. His parents, Brett and Naghemeh, initiated a police hunt when they removed their child from Southampton General Hospital on August 28, after a disagreement with doctors. They were detained for a brief period by the authorities after they took him out of the country for the specialised treatment they wanted him to have as it was not available to them on the NHS.
She said that people should be aware that better and more funding into brain tumours will result in better results.
She added that it is the biggest cancer killer in children and those under the age of 40. This means that not only are parents losing children, but children are also losing their parents. Brain tumours have remained the poor cousin of research.
Only about 1% of the national cancer research spend is allocated to brain tumours, even though it kills more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other form of cancer.
BTR’s latest National Research Funding report noted that 55% of the national spend is allocated to breast, leukaemia, prostate and bowel cancers, and around 71% of brain tumour deaths occur in people aged under 75, compared to 47% for all types of cancer.
The latest report for funding states that the improvements in survival for breast, bowel, prostate cancers and leukaemia are linked to the higher research funds available for these cancers. Breast cancer received an average of £32m per annum over the past 12 years, bowel cancer £20m per annum, prostate cancer £14m per annum and leukaemia £27m per annum, compared to a mere £3.5m per annum for brain cancer.
The report states that at this current rate of spend, it would take a century to find a cure.
Potential focus areas include the cause of the tumours which start in the brain, how the brain is protected from toxins and the requirement for researchers to have wider expertise areas, including both neuroscience and oncology due to the brain cell variation.
The report adds that there are more than 120 types of brain tumour, which makes research more difficult as other cancers may have cells that respond uniformly to treatments.
Image Credit: Nathanael Burton