Cambridge to lead fight against brain tumours in children

Charlie Williams after his treatment for a brain tumour and, right, Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Institute Credit: .

A multi-million pound bid to find new ways of treating brain tumours in children will put Cambridge right at the heart of world-leading research.

Cancer Research UK is investing almost six million pounds trying to increase our understanding of how the tumours develop and, crucially, improve survival rates.

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Professor Richard Gilbertson is leading an international team based at Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Institute.

They'll be carrying out pioneering research to gain a better understanding of the biology of children’s brain tumours, which could lead to new treatments.

Brain tumours are one of the hardest types of cancer to treat because not enough is known about what starts and drives the disease.

Currently the main treatment for children with brain tumours is surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy - or a combination of all three. Survival rates have barely improved over the last five decades.

“Since we’ve not moved the needle in terms of new treatments of brain tumours in the last 50 years, much of what we have done so far must be wrong. Therefore, as well as advancing understanding of brain tumour biology, our international team will also develop completely new treatment approaches, not yet conceived of or tried in brain tumours.” >

Prof Richard Gilbertson
Charlie Williams and, right, Maisie Lossau Credit: .

The news has been welcomed by patients and families across the region, including relatives of Maisie Lossau from Spixworth near Norwich.

The teenager was diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2015. At one point her condition was so serious she had to be placed into a coma.

Charlie Williams, from Sudbury in Suffolk, was just five years old when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

He had months of treatment in Cambridge including a seven-hour operation, radiotherapy twice a day for five weeks and a year of chemotherapy.

He missed two years of school and also contracted meningitis.

But now, aged 19, he's fit and healthy and goes for just two check-ups a year.

He says there is a "light at the end of the tunnel" and that, with research improving and increasing, those who are diagnosed with a brain tumour should "never give up".