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New Brain Tumour Research Laboratory Launched


First of seven ‘Centres of Hope’ expands bid to beat brain tumours

More people under 40 die of a brain tumour than any other cancer[i] yet brain tumours remain the most underfunded area of research.  The fight to challenge this status quo took a welcome boost today as a new brain tumour research laboratory opens at the University of Portsmouth, headed up by Professor Geoff Pilkington, one of the world’s leading brain tumour research scientists.

Brain Tumour Research, a national charity fundraising for research into the UK’s biggest cancer killer of adults and children under 40 and three of its member charities Ali’s Dream, Charlie’s Challenge and Headcase, will have raised £1 million in 2012 to support the laboratory. Named after a seven year old who was lost to a brain tumour, the Alison Phelan Memorial Laboratory will be declared open today, significantly increasing the size of the current facility.

Much needed funding from Brain Tumour Research and its member charities has enabled the development of the new molecular neuro-oncology facility and the appointment of four additional posts, headed up by Principal Research Fellow Helen Filmore, a well-respected US brain specialist, joining Portsmouth from Virginia Commonwealth University’s Department of Neurosurgery. This is the first of seven centres that will open in the next few years, looking after projects from studies on high and low grade tumours to specific tumour types, affecting adults, children and both.

Professor Geoff Pilkington summarises the projects in hand, “One very promising area of our research is looking at how we can trigger particular brain tumour cells to destroy themselves. Huge strides have been made in this area using both tricylic drugs and insect virus mediated gene therapy approaches. We can now make certain tumour cells self-destruct in some types of tumour and we are now working on trying to apply this to paediatric brain tumours. We are also very proud to say that we have created the first ever all-human blood brain barrier model to help develop nanoparticle drug delivery systems.”

He concludes, “This is, in over forty years in brain tumour research, perhaps the most exciting period of my career, in terms of the potential for development of both new bio- markers to determine patient outcome and novel therapeutic targets, which we hope will bring renewed hope for brain tumour patients. It’s fantastic to be part of such a dedicated team of experienced and talented people that are passionate about further developing the field.”

The centre is the first of many due to open around the country in a bid to create a global network of research facilities that can eventually find a cure for the terrible disease, with another two due to open in 2013.  Each centre will require one million pounds a year to fund it.

Sue Farrington Smith from Brain Tumour Research comments, “My niece Ali is the inspiration behind my passion to drive the research forward. My sister, Julie, and other members of our family and friends don’t want other families to have to go through what we went through. I still can’t believe how little funding goes into finding a cure for a disease that steals so many people’s futures. Our aim is to create a global network of research centres where knowledge and findings can be shared easily in order to make regular advancements towards a solution.”

There are 120 different types of brain tumours and 16,000 people each year in the UK are diagnosed with a brain tumour[ii] – that’s 43 people each day.

[i] “A report on inequality of funding and profile of brain tumours” Brain Tumour Research, July 2009

[ii] A manifesto for everyone affected by a brain tumour, Coalition of UK brain tumour organisations, October 2010


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