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New funding initiatives for novel brain tumour research as part of £40m investment

Published: 14 May 2024

An innovative new package of research funding to stimulate brain tumour research in adults, children and young people is announced today.

The new suite of initiatives are the largest ever combined package of their kind. It is the next step in a £40 million Government pledge to develop new lifesaving and life improving research.

The joint announcement is led by NIHR and the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission (TJBCM). It emerges from a unique collaboration between charities, research funders and Government to listen and consult with the brain tumour community.

The package is being announced today at a Parliamentary roundtable co-chaired by Health Minister Andrew Stephenson and NIHR CEO Professor Lucy Chappell. TJBCM, in collaboration with NIHR and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) are supporting it.

This marks transformative investment in the development of new treatments for brain tumours and funding to improve patient care. There will be further funding through the Tessa Jowell Fellowships programme. This will enable NHS staff to conduct research to generate evidence for the services they deliver and improve clinical practice and patient outcomes in brain tumour care.

Brain tumours remain one of the hardest to treat cancers. Just 12% of adults survive beyond five years after a diagnosis of a brain tumour.

In 2018, the late Dame Tessa Jowell led a call to action on behalf of all patients to tackle brain tumours. In response, members of the brain tumour community came together to design a new national strategy. The government committed £40 million for new research.

Since then TJBCM has been working to deliver on Tessa’s vision for better treatment, care and research into brain tumours. The roundtable comes during the week of the sixth anniversary of Dame Tessa’s death in May 2018.

Professor Lucy Chappell, NIHR CEO, said: “This transformative brain tumour research funding we are announcing is a key moment in our search for novel therapies and better treatments to save lives and improve the quality of life for patients with this condition.

“We are pressing ahead in this innovative new step, made possible due to our strong and collaborative partnership with charities, patients, the life sciences industry and the brain tumour community.

“As we continue this journey together, it shows the crucial value of world-leading research shaped and funded by the public, integrated across the health and care system.”

Nicky Huskens, CEO of TJBCM, said: “Today’s announcements represent a transformative investment in the brain tumour community. It is a testament to the hard work and tireless campaigning of charities, patients and family members that we are where we are today; with the real possibility of discovering new treatment and care options for patients. It has been a pleasure to work with the Government and the NIHR to develop these new initiatives, and we are confident that what will be announced today really does reflect the urgent needs of the community.
“Dame Tessa Jowell told us all not to just put brain cancer in the ‘too difficult’ box, so it is crucial that, almost six years to the day of her death, we double down on the progress we have made and give families and patients more hope for the future.”

Health and Secondary Care Minister Andrew Stephenson, said: "Six years after Tessa Jowell's death, I continue to be inspired by her campaign.

"Brain cancer is a dreadful disease, but this latest package of research and funding, developed in partnership with the brain tumour community will help accelerate improvements in treatment and care, so that we can beat this condition and save lives"

Jess Mills, daughter of Dame Tessa Jowell, CEO of the Tessa Jowell Foundation and special advisor to the TJBCM, said: “We are meeting today almost six years to the day that my Mum Tessa Jowell died from Glioblastoma. Six years on, brain cancer is still the biggest cancer killer of children and under 40's, the need for patients to gain access to new and better treatments and care is as acute as ever. However, what is different now compared to then, is we at the TJBCM have spent six years building a thriving brain tumour community which is ready to transform brain cancer outcomes together. Almost six years to the day that the £40 million was first committed, it is imperative now that the money is made available with the urgency that this community deserves and there are no more delays. With this transformational investment we could unlock the potential of the cutting edge of treatment of care, which is precision medicine in every corner of the UK”

Funding calls

Today’s package includes the following initiatives funded by NIHR:

  • A transformative new funding call for the evaluation of novel therapies and optimisation of brain tumour treatments:

To be delivered through a national consortium with the potential to drive a step-change in brain cancer research. It capitalises on recent developments in precision medicine. It will build capacity by bringing new researchers into the field and supporting early career researchers to focus on brain cancer. It aims to further develop the network for the delivery of brain tumour trials. This will ensure the most promising research opportunities are made available to adult and child patients.

  • A new funding call to generate high quality evidence in brain tumour care, support and rehabilitation:

A call focussing on care, support, and quality of life for patients with brain tumours. This will build research evidence on interventions such as rehabilitation for patients with brain tumours. NIHR’s Health Technology Assessment (HTA) Programme and the Health and Social Care Delivery Research (HSDR) Programme will fund the call.


  • New Tessa Jowell allied health professional (AHP) research fellowships. Building the evidence on the importance of rehabilitation for patients with a brain tumour:

This will fund, train and support two early-career AHPs or other healthcare professionals to deliver research into improving the quality of life of patients. It will generate an evidence base to support patients with brain cancer rehabilitation. It aims to build a new generation of highly-skilled, research-active healthcare professionals. It will be funded by NIHR and led by TJBCM, through the Tessa Jowell Fellowship Programme.

The funding calls are expected to launch in summer 2024. A pre-alert issues today with an overview of the proposed calls. There is a sign-up link for notification when they go live.

The treatment funding call is expected to be significant in scale. This is to reflect the commitment of the Government to mobilising the £40M committed in 2018. The development of the proposal will be supported through workshops hosted by TJBCM. NIHR will provide ongoing guidance, to bring together the brain cancer research community. This includes brokering industry partnerships. They will ensure a strong and cohesive proposal which has the potential to deliver a step-change for brain cancer.

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