Brain tumour funding boost following death of Tessa Jowell

In collaboration with the Press Association

The Government has announced it will double a recent funding boost for brain tumour research following the death of Dame Tessa Jowell.

The late Labour Cabinet minister, who died on Saturday from an aggressive brain tumour, campaigned for more resources to help combat her disease.

£20 million was committed to brain tumour research by the Department of Health and Social Care in February, with the aim to boost survival in these hard-to-treat diseases. Theresa May is now doubling this investment to £40 million as part of theTessa Jowell Brain Cancer Research Mission.

Cancer Research UK also confirmed its recent committment to brain tumour research with a £25 million funding boost for brain tumours over the next five years. 

Tessa Jowell’s research legacy

The announcement backs several of Baroness Jowell’s campaign requests:

  • Increased funding to study brain tumours.
  • Commitments to certain clinical approaches.
  • Bringing together the world’s best doctors and brain tumour scientists in an International Symposium.

The funding will help support high quality research proposals via the National Institute for Health Research and Cancer Research UK.

Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, Sir Harpal Kumar, called the funding boost “a wonderful tribute to Dame Tessa Jowell” who campaigned tirelessly to raise awareness of the urgent need to advance brain tumour treatments. 

He said: “Alongside Cancer Research UK’s investment of nearly £20 million per year, this is a much-needed injection into brain cancer research which will enable us to make significant improvements in our understanding of what drives brain cancers, leading to better treatments in future. We are excited to be working alongside the Government to boost progress.”

Commitments also include a focus on adaptive clinical trials, which Baroness Jowell was a strong advocate for. These trials aim to test different treatments at the same time, which could speed up the process.

The Government also committed to national roll-out in England of a dye that could be used to improve treatment. Only half of brain cancer centres in England use the fluorescent dye that’s given to patients before they have surgery. 

The dye helps surgeons tell the difference between brain tumour tissue and healthy tissue. Evidence suggests that it can help surgeons remove more of the tumour during surgery first time. 

Kumar also announced that the charity will rename its annual Brain Tumour Conference in tribute to Baroness Jowell. The inaugural meeting was recently held in London.

“This is the leading brain cancer conference worldwide and brings together the best scientists and doctors from around the world to share their expertise in order to better understand this complex set of diseases,” he said.

“It will help us take forward Tessa’s ambition of speeding up progress and will be one of her many legacies.” 

A request for action

In January, Baroness Jowell led a debate in the house of commons on innovative cancer treatments and spoke about her own experience of diagnosis and treatment.

She then made the requests for action to Prime Minister Theresa May and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt at a meeting in Downing Street in February.

Theresa May said: "Baroness Tessa Jowell faced her illness with dignity and courage - and it was a privilege to host her in Downing Street recently to discuss what more we can do to tackle brain cancer.

“I hope that the actions we are taking now and in the future to improve care and research for those confronting a terrible disease will form part of the lasting legacy of an inspirational woman."

Each year around 11,400 people in the UK are diagnosed with a brain tumour. Only 14 out of 100 people survive their disease for 10 or more years.