'Heartbroken' family of mum killed by brain tumour hail £500,000 grant to fund new research

  • Samantha Edwards' widower Julian and daughter Nancie spoke to ITV News Wales nearly a year after her death

The family of a mum who died from a brain tumour say it is "bittersweet" that £500,000 will be spent on groundbreaking research.

The investment will allow scientists in Cardiff to develop a new "super sponge", which aims to deliver drugs directly to the brain following surgery.

It has been welcomed by the family of Samantha Edwards, a mother-of-two from Llangan in the Vale of Glamorgan who sadly died from a brain tumour.

Samantha had chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment however the cancer grew too aggressive and she died 14 months after diagnosis.

Julian and Nancie are now raising awareness, something he said Samantha wished they would do.

Nearly a year on, her husband Julian told ITV News Wales he would have liked something similar to have been available to Sam after she was diagnosed.

However, he went on to say her brain tumour could not be removed, so the new initiative would not have applied to her.

Her daughter, Nancie, said she does not want any family to go through what they did, adding: "It's heartbreaking. I wouldn't wish this upon anyone."

The common symptoms of a brain tumour are headaches and fits, according to Cancer Research UK. Credit: Cancer Research UK

What is the new super sponge?

The innovation focuses on glioblastoma, GBM tumours, the most common type of primary malignant brain tumour in adults, which often carry a short prognosis of 12 to 18 months.

The super sponge - a unique sponge-like material - will be inserted into the space left behind following surgery to remove GBM tumours, according to the charity Brain Tumour Research.

It adds the material will deliver combinations of repurposed cancer therapeutics that would not otherwise be able to pass the blood-brain barrier.

The charity also said the "novel technique will reduce the side effects of cancer drugs and get effective treatments to the tumour cells left behind after surgery, which go on to cause recurrence of the disease".

The family from Llangan in the Vale of Glamorgan are now living without Samantha.

Reflecting on Samantha's diagnosis and death, Julian said: "We're trying to keep busy. One of the things about Sam's diagnosis was that we knew it was coming.

"It all happened quite quickly in the end. We're trying to keep awareness going.

"We try to remember the good times. She fought valiantly and she went peacefully."

"She's not here for us to pay tribute to but Sam got up every day, put a smile on our face every day and I guess was hoping for an initiative or a breakthrough like what we're talking about now," he added.

When asked about the new research, he said: "You'd have liked that to have been something Sam could've benefitted from.

"Her tumour couldn't be removed so this wouldn't apply to her. But also, I know she would be pleased that there are some baby steps taking place.

"A lot of people have brain tumours that can be removed and then they come back. If this is a way of keeping them at bay longer then it's a step in the right direction.

"It just proves that a significant amount of funding can go a long way in this area."

The family have welcomed the news about the research.

The family is now asking people to sign a petition.

It calls on both the UK and Welsh governments to "ring-fence £110 million of current and new funding to kick-start an increase in the national investment in brain tumour research to £35 million a year by 2028".

They hope to reach 100,000 signatures by Tuesday 31 October. It has around half of that so far.

The family is hoping to reach 100,000 signatures on the petition by the end of this month.

What are the symptoms of a brain tumour?

They can vary depending on the exact part of the brain affected, according to the NHS.

People can experience headaches, fits, nausea, vomiting and drowsiness.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Mental or behavioural changes, such as memory problems or changes in personality

  • Progressive weakness or paralysis on one side of the body

  • Vision or speech problems

The Welsh Government said it has invested in "cutting-edge cancer research in Wales".

It adds that "there is also significant research happening in NHS organisations, ranging from trials looking at understanding the causes of brain cancer, to trials testing treatments".

"Centres in north and south Wales have been awarded centre of excellence status by the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “Brain cancer can be a devastating disease and our sympathies are with all those affected.

"We’ve specifically allocated £40 million for research in this area, on top of £1 billion a year for wider health research.

“We’ve invested in every suitable research application made and the funding will continue to be available for further studies to develop new treatments and therapies for brain tumours.

“To encourage further successful applications, we are investing in infrastructure, workshops for researchers and training for clinicians.”

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