A heartfelt donation of £1 million from a bereaved widow has catalysed the establishment of a ground-breaking research centre dedicated to finding a cure for the deadliest childhood cancer.
Helen Forbes-Low, a resident of Pinner, attended the official launch of the Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence at The Institute for Cancer Research, London, on Wednesday, September 6th. Helen’s presence at the event was in memory of her son, William, who tragically lost his battle with a high-grade medulloblastoma in August 2017, after a twelve-year fight.
William was diagnosed with the aggressive brain tumour at the tender age of five and underwent standard care treatment. However, at the age of 13, he faced further surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and a stem cell transplant due to regrowth. Heartbreakingly, new tumours were discovered in his spinal cord three years later.
In honour of William’s memory, his family established The William Low Trust, which now funds a PhD researcher working diligently with a team to find a cure for medulloblastoma at one of Brain Tumour Research’s existing Centres of Excellence.
Speaking at the launch, Helen said, “Too many families have suffered the loss of a loved one due to brain tumours, and we know that much work needs to be done to change the outcomes for brain tumour patients. William was determined to live and enjoy the life he should have had ahead of him but was lost to the cruellest of diseases. We will never get over his loss.”
She continued, “The options for families faced with this devastating diagnosis are so limited due to a lack of funding for research. What’s soul-destroying is that just 1% of the total cancer research spend is given to brain tumours, yet they kill more children than any other cancer. We simply must do better for our children, and we welcome this new Centre, which brings much-needed hope.”
This ground-breaking venture was made possible by a £1 million donation from Mary Scott, a retired college lecturer who tragically lost her husband, Mike Scott, to a grade 4 glioblastoma (GBM), an incurable and fast-growing brain cancer.
Mary’s donation, the largest in Brain Tumour Research’s history, is in memory of Mike, who passed away in June 2020. The couple was enjoying early retirement in The Cotswolds when Mike’s illness was diagnosed.
The newly launched Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence, based at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) under the leadership of Professor Chris Jones, will focus on identifying new treatments for high-grade glioma brain tumours in children and young adults, including DIPG. It will serve as a vital bridge connecting global research efforts and analysing findings to facilitate the initiation of much-needed clinical trials.
Mary Scott expressed her thoughts, saying, “I count myself very fortunate to be able to make this substantial donation. Mike adored children, so it’s especially fitting that this new Centre will focus on finding a cure for high-grade tumours in children.
“To think of those poor parents whose children are affected by brain tumours is absolutely dreadful. My hope is that, with this legacy, Mike’s death won’t have been in vain, and that his name will live on, and the money will go some way towards finding a cure.”
Dr. Karen Noble, Director of Research, Policy, and Innovation at Brain Tumour Research, highlighted the urgency of the situation, stating, “We are optimistic that this work will lead to trials within the next five years so we can give real hope to families in the future.
“The situation faced by families today is appalling, with many feeling they have no option but to seek unproven and costly treatment abroad. It is vital that attention is focused on this most deadly of childhood cancers.”
Professor Chris Jones, Professor of Childhood Brain Tumour Biology at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, added, “The Centre will act as an international hub for the development of new treatments for children and young adults with these terrible brain tumours. Improving outcomes for children with these types of tumour is crucial if we are to make progress.”
Paediatric type diffuse high-grade glioma (PDHGG) comprises a group of high-grade glioma tumours, including diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) and paediatric glioblastoma (GBM). These tumours severely affect children and young adults and have a dire clinical outcome, with survival rates of less than 5% for some subtypes.
The new Centre will bridge the gap between basic biology and clinical benefit for children and young adults with high-grade glioma, generating laboratory data to support new clinical trials. It will prioritize the most promising approaches for clinical translation within established clinical trial platforms across a global consortium called CONNECT.
The Institute of Cancer Research was selected from a competitive field of applicants through a robust peer review process. It joins Brain Tumour Research Centres of Excellence at the University of Plymouth, Queen Mary University of London, and Imperial College, marking another stride towards the charity’s goal of establishing seven sustainable Brain Tumour Research Centres of Excellence across the UK.
Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK, advocating for increased government and large cancer charity investment in brain tumour research to accelerate the development of new treatments and ultimately find a cure.
The charity is at the forefront of the call for a national annual spend of £35 million to improve survival rates and patient outcomes, aligning with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia.