A brain tumour is a growth of abnormal cells in the brain. Cancer Research UK reports that there are over 100 types of brain tumour and provides a list on its website. ‘Primary’ brain tumours begin in the brain, while ‘secondary’ brain tumours are those that began somewhere else in the body and have since spread to the brain. Tumours are graded according to how fast they grow and whether they are cancerous. A low-grade brain tumour (grade 1 and 2) is non-cancerous, tends to grow slowly, and may not cause symptoms for a long time. A high-grade brain tumour (grade 3 and 4) is a cancerous growth in the brain. These tend to grow quicker than low-grade brain tumours, can be more difficult to treat and are more likely to return after treatment. Symptoms, treatment and prognosis will depend on many factors, including where the tumour is in the brain, its size and grade. Data from Cancer Research UK, for the period 2016-18, states that there were around “12,300 new brain, other CNS [Central Nervous System] and intracranial tumours cases in the UK every year”. This represented 3% of all cancer cases for the period, making it the 9th most common cancer in the UK.
Funding for brain tumour research
In February 2018, the Government and Cancer Research UK announced that they would spend a total of £45 million, over a five year period, on brain tumour research. The Government subsequently doubled its initial £20 million investment to £40 million in May 2018. Three years later, in May 2021, the Health Minister told the Petitions Committee that £8.8 million of the £40 million had so far been allocated by the NIHR – the National Institute for Health and Care Research – for dedicated brain tumour research.
An inquiry by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Brain Tumours was launched in 2021 and examined why more of the research funding had not yet been awarded. In its report, Brain Tumours. Pathway to a Cure – breaking down the barriers (opens PDF), published in late February 2023, the APPG found that, nearly five years on from the major research funding announcements on brain tumours there were:
“no new treatments and the five-year survival for patients is still just 12%. Brain tumours remain the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under the age of 40. Of the £40 million Government commitment, on 25th January 2023 just £15 million had been awarded since June 2018, with £6 million of this not easily identifiable as relevant to brain tumours”.
Further information about funding for brain tumour research, and the APPG on Brain Tumours recent report, are provided in this briefing, together with parliamentary and press material on the topic.