Health: Behind the scenes of brain tumour research in Leeds

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Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer.

Tackling such a mammoth issue, with 16,000 new cases being diagnosed in the UK every year, is not easy and relies on the work of charities and the NHS to fund research that can save lives.

Brain Tumour Research and Support (BTRS) is one of those vital organisations, with a brand new research project which launched at the Leeds Institute of Cancer and Pathology at St James’s Hospital on Wednesday.

In a rare move, the charity opened the laboratory doors up to patients and their families for a behind-the-scenes tour.

The new project, led by PhD student Barbara de Silva, will investigate why low grade benign brain tumours transform into high grade malignant tumours called glioblastoma.

Fittingly the research has been funded through the legacy of Ian Meek, a Gloucestershire man who lived with a low grade brain tumour for 15 years before he died in 2012. He left £110,000 to fund research into the condition and his family attended last week’s launch.

Head scientists Heiko Wurdak and Mihaela Lorger started the tour, which visited three different lab stations where three BTRS-funded researchers shared practical knowledge of the growth and occurrence of brain tumours.

Rachel Finlay, charity manager at BTRS, said: “We want his family to know that we are working day-in, day-out to find a cure for brain tumours, and that Ian’s work is funding a very talented PhD who has chosen to base her life around brain tumour research.

“Working together, we’re moving ever closer to stopping this heart-breaking disease.”

A closer look at a major health issue

- Only around one per cent of the national spend on cancer research is allocated to brain tumours.

- Symptoms of brain tumours include severe, persistent headaches, nausea and vomiting, drowsiness, vision problems and seizures.

- There are more than 120 different types of tumour and brain tumours are a notoriously difficult disease to diagnose.

- Brain Tumour Research and Support was set up in 2009 to raise funds for research, having initially formed as an informal partnership of other brain tumour charities five years earlier. Visit btrs.org.uk/Home.

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