This week sees the launch of our Harrys Helping Harry campaign to raise awareness and money for Help Harry Help Others, the fund set up by brave Harry Moseley to raise money for our research into brain tumours – the disease that tragically claimed his life last year.
When he was diagnosed with an inoperable tumour at just 7 years old, Harry got to work making and selling special beaded bracelets and travelling all over the country to spread the word. His tremendous efforts raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for brain tumour research – efforts that continue today through Harry’s mum Georgie and the army of volunteers who make and sell his bracelets across the country.
During this week’s campaign launch, we thought we’d take the opportunity to highlight some of the progress in understanding brain tumours, and our current research into this complex and diverse group of diseases. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but gives a flavour of the kinds of research going on, and shows that thanks to people like Harry, we are making progress.
Primary brain tumours – those that start within the brain rather than spread there from other parts of the body – are a diverse group of cancers, and their location makes them tricky to diagnose and treat. Thanks to the efforts of Cancer Research UK scientists and researchers around the world, we are making steps forward in understanding these complex tumours and improving their diagnosis and treatment. This has contributed to an almost doubling in the number of children surviving a brain tumour since the 1960s.
Over the past year or so we’ve blogged about some exciting advances from our own researchers, including testing whether “glow in the dark” dyes could improve brain tumour surgery, investigating how neurofibromas spread along nerve cells, and tracking down brain tumour stem cells.
Elsewhere, Swedish scientists made an intriguing discovery that a large proportion of medulloblastomas – the most common malignant brain tumour in children – may involve a virus known as HCMV.
And a group of US scientists recently made an important step forward in improving imaging techniques used to diagnose and monitor brain tumours, while others tracked down some of the gene faults that underlie oligodendroglioma and drive diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG) – a rare type of childhood brain tumour. Our researchers at the Institute of Cancer Research are building on this last discovery, using high-tech gene-hunting techniques to probe even deeper into the genetics of DIPG.
Looking further back, perhaps our greatest achievement in brain tumour research is the development of temozolomide – a drug now used to treat thousands of patients all over the world affected by glioma. There’s more on our website about the story of temozolomide, including an interview with the drug’s ‘father’, Professor Malcolm Stevens.
Our scientists in Newcastle discovered a test that can help doctors identify children who need more intensive treatment for medulloblastoma. And Cancer Research UK-funded scientists have also made strides in identifying some of the faulty genes linked to brain tumours, including meningioma, ependymoma and pilocytic astrocytoma.
We have also made a difference to treatment for brain tumours – for example, a clinical trial we helped fund alongside the Samantha Dickson Brain Tumour Trust showed that using chemotherapy to delay or avoid radiotherapy in children under three with ependymoma reduces the risk of long term side effects.
Although all this progress is undoubtedly good news, much more work needs to be done, as brain tumours still claim thousands of lives every year.
Cancer Research UK is a major funder of brain tumour research in the UK, spending millions of pounds on projects ranging from lab studies into the fundamental biology and genetics of these tumours to clinical trials to improve treatment.
You can read highlights of our brain tumour research on our website – including scientists studying brain tumour stem cells, hunting for the faulty genes that drive the disease, and testing new treatments. More in-depth scientific summaries of our entire brain tumour research portfolio are also available .
The money raised by Help Harry Help Others will go directly towards our brain tumour research, so if you want to get involved or order your own beaded bracelets, you can find out more from Help Harry Help Others website.
There’s also plenty of activity online – check out the Facebook page, featuring a fantastic video packed with celebrity Harrys. If you’re a Twitter fan you can follow Georgie Moseley (@harry_moseley) and our own account (@CR_UK), and check out the latest news or share your stories using the hashtag #HHHO.