by Heather Taylor-Nicholson
Ambassador for Brain Tumour Support
I regularly make the long trek from Cornwall to London to attend meetings of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Brain Tumours (APPGBT) on behalf of Brain Tumour Support. The most recent one was, as always, well worth attending.
I enjoy attending as it's always a learning experience about issues surrounding brain tumour research, funding and how the impact of brain tumours have on the lives of those affected by them.
The most recent meeting (4 June 2019) was chaired by Derek Thomas MP (St Ives and Isles of Scilly) and looked at both cannabis-based medicinal products and the challenge of drug delivery for brain tumour treatment.
One of the speakers, Dr Wai Liu is a senior research fellow at St George’s, University of London. His work focuses on developing novel approaches against cancer. One of Dr Liu’s projects is investigating the use of cannabinoids in combination with radiotherapy as a treatment of brain tumours. Anecdotal evidence presented to him suggested that cannabis could improve the responses to some therapies, but knowledge is still sparse, and this led him to a field of work studying the anticancer effects of cannabinoids used both alone and in combination with other treatments. Some of Dr Liu’s concerns surrounds the amount of misinformation on the web and in the media, which can be misleading indeed.
The other speaker was Will Singleton, a neurosurgeon from the Children’s Brain Tumour Drug Delivery Consortium (CBTDDC) who spoke about the challenge of drug delivery for brain tumour treatment. He introduced the CBTDDC network, which focuses on raising awareness of this challenge among researchers, funders and policy makers, and also on strengthening collaborations between clinicians and researchers to speed up research progress in this area.
Again, the two speakers highlighted a concern that has been a frequent theme in the APPGBT meetings I have attended, and that is the issue of funding. Whilst funding has increased somewhat since the late Dame Tessa Jowell’s campaign of 2018, getting such to some areas needing further research can be difficult and Mr Singleton says there is a reluctance to build on researching and developing more efficient methods of drug delivery across the blood brain barrier. There are a few methods but do not always suit the individual needs of the patient.
A suggestion from those attending and accepted by Derek Thomas, is to invite representatives from pharmaceutical and drug delivery companies, to ask about their apparent reluctance to invest more into such research. Whether they accept or not will be another matter.