Primary brain tumours 

Primary brain tumours arise from the cells present within the normal brain. The tumour cells grow in an abnormal, uncontrolled way.

Tumours can start to grow in any part of the brain and will cause different symptoms depending on their site.

Primary brain tumours can either be cancerous (malignant) or non-cancerous (benign).

All primary brain tumours are graded according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) classification system (2016). The tumour grade reflects features such as how quickly the tumour is growing:

  • Tumours that grow more slowly are called low grade (grade1 or 2). Some low grade tumours are benign, but can still cause problems as they interfere with the surrounding brain and its functions. Some don’t come back after treatment, but others will and require further treatments. Treatmens include surgery, radiotherapy and sometimes, chemotherapy.
  • Tumours that grow more quickly are called high grade (grade 3 or 4). These tumours are malignant brain cancers. Unlike other types of cancer, they rarely spread (metastasise) to other parts of the body. High grade brain tumours often need further treatment such as radiotherapy and chemotherapy after surgery.

Primary brain tumours are relatively rare, but the number of people being diagnosed in the UK is increasing. One possible reason for this increase is that advances in scanning technology may be detecting more brain tumours.

Depending on the area of the brain affected by the tumour, patients can have very different problems, such as issues with movement, speech, thinking skills, or vision. If you experience difficulties in any of these areas you may be seen by one, or more, of our specialist therapy services.

 Consultants

Dr Naomi Fersht, Consultant Clinical Oncologist

Dr Naomi Fersht

Dr Naomi Fersht coordinates care across brain tumour services at UCLH.

She is a consultant clinical oncologist at University College Hospital and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN). She specialises exclusively in the management of primary and secondary brain and spinal tumours. This involves the use of both conventional and innovative radiotherapy techniques and chemotherapy. 

Her special interests are: brain oligometastases; meningiomas; pituitary tumours; the management of teenagers and young adults with brain tumours (age 16-24); and advanced radiotherapy techniques including radiosurgery.

She qualified from the University of Cambridge and her specialist training was at the Royal Marsden and University College Hospitals. Naomi's doctoral thesis, supervised by Nobel Laureate Sir Paul Nurse, was in cell cycle checkpoints.

Full consultant profile

Dr Jeremy Rees, Consultant Neurologist

Dr Jeremy Rees

Dr Jeremy Rees was appointed as a consultant neurologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) in 1999 and has built a national and international reputation in neuro-oncology, seeing patients with brain tumours, particularly low-grade gliomas. His opinion is widely sought on the diagnosis and treatment of neurological problems related to cancer and cancer treatments. He was previously the Director for London Cancer Brain Tumour Pathway Board, involved in systematic improvements to patient pathways in North London.

He has been Education Lead for Neurology at UCL Medical School and is currently the Lead for the Special Study Module in Neurology. He lectures widely to different professional groups and has written chapters and a textbook in Neuro-oncology. He was the Chief Investigator for the UK in a major European trial of treatment options in Low Grade Gliomas.

Full consultant profile

Mr Robert Bradford, Consultant Neurosurgeon

Mr Robert Bradford

Mr Bradford qualified in 1979 at University College Hospital Medical School followed by house jobs at Addenbrooke's and UCLH. He obtain his FRCS in 1983 following general surgical training. He spent two years conducting research in neuro-oncology at The Institute of Neurology which lead to the award of Doctor of Medicine (MD) in 1987.

He undertook clinical neurosurgical training at The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) and The Wessex Neurological Centre. He was appointed consultant neurosurgeon at the Royal Free Hospital in 1989 and also honorary consultant neurosurgeon at The Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, Stanmore.

He is a past Chair Brain/CNS tumour board North London Cancer Network.

As well as an interest in neuro-oncology he has an extensive skull base practice.

Full consultant profile

Prof Sebastian Brandner, Consultant Neuropathologist

Prof Sebastian Brandner

Sebastian Brandner is Professor of Neuropathology at UCL and Honorary Consultant Neuropathologist at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) at UCLH. He leads the Division of Neuropathology and is specialised in brain tumour diagnostics including molecular diagnostics, and neurodegeneration.

He has authored and co-authored research publications on brain tumour models, book chapters in major neuropathology textbooks, and the 2016 WHO classification as well as guidelines for the Royal College of Pathologists. He serves on the National Institute of clinical excellence (NICE) guideline committee to establish guidelines for management and treatment of primary brain tumours and cerebral metastases

The Division of Neuropathology receives brain tumour referrals from the NHNN, and several major regional hospitals. The Division also provides a molecular pathology service for referrers across the United Kingdom.

Full consultant profile

Dr Gary Hotton, Consultant Neurologist

Dr Gary Hotton

Dr Gary Hotton qualified from University College and Middlesex School of Medicine in 1995. His general medical training was undertaken at Dundee Royal Infirmary and the Royal Free Hospital. Following this he spent seven years in research at Kings College Hospital and Imperial College. He then returned to specialist training in London and joined the specialist register in May 2010.

Dr Hotton is a consultant neurologist and divides his time between the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) and The North Middlesex Hospital. At the NHNN he has a specialist neuro-oncology clinic and is a core member of the neuro-oncology multidisciplinary team.

At the North Middlesex Hospital he provides an in-patient and out patient general neurology service.

Full consultant profile

Mr Neil Kitchen, Consultant Neurosurgeon

Mr Neil Kitchen

Mr Neil Kitchen is a consultant neurosurgeon at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) and lead neurosurgeon for neuro-oncology.

He studied medicine at Bart's Health, University College London Hospitals and at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. Before moving to Cambridge he completed a BSc degree in the history of medicine at the Wellcome Institute.

Mr Kitchen has special clinical interest in brain tumour surgery, intracranial microsurgery, trigeminal neuralgia, cavernoma and radiosurgery (Gamma Knife).

Mr Kitchen has also worked at Bart's, Charing Cross Hospital, the Royal Free, Atkinson Morley's, Southend Hospital, and the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.

Full consultant profile

Mr Andrew McEvoy, Consultant Neurosurgeon

Mr Andrew McEvoy

Andrew McEvoy is a world-leading consultant neurosurgeon at The National Hospital for Neurology (NHNN) and Neurosurgery and Institute of Neurology (ION).

Listed in The Times 2010 top UK doctors for his epilepsy and brain tumour surgery,
Mr McEvoy’s specialist neuro-oncology service has a particular interest in the prediction and preservation of function during large resective neurosurgical procedures and the reorganisation of brain function around brain tumours. This multidisciplinary approach integrates facilities such as 3T MRI, FMRI for language and motor function, DTI, MEG, neurophysiology and neuropsychology.

As a result of this expertise, he performs probably the largest number of ‘awake’ craniotomies presently in the UK. This enables the largest possible resection of brain tumours while minimalising neurological deficit Gamma Knife and Cyberknife ensure that patients have access to the most extensive treatment options available at any centre throughout the world.

Full consultant profile

Mr George Samandouras, Consultant Neurosurgeon

Mr George Samandouras

George Samandouras has been trained in Oxford at the Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust and has completed a fellowship in Paris in 2008.

At Queen Square he directs the education and training of neurosurgical trainees and fellows.

His clinical interests include brain tumours, minimally invasive surgery and spine surgery. Surgical oncology techniques employed include fluorescent-guided resection, cortical mapping and intraoperative MRI.

Full consultant profile

Miss Huma Sethi, Consultant Neurosurgeon

Miss Huma Sethi

Miss Sethi is a Consultant Neurosurgeon at The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN).

Training programme director (ST1-ST3) for North Thames Neurosurgical training programme, which is the biggest training rotation in the UK. Her specialist clinical interest include Neuro-oncology, Intraventricular Endoscopy, Radiosurgery (Gamma Knife), Peripheral Nerve Surgery & Degenerative Spine Surgery

Mr Lewis Thorne, Consultant Neurosurgeon

Mr Lewis Thorne

Mr Lewis Thorne is a consultant neurosurgeon at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN) at Queen Square.

He graduated from Edinburgh University in 1995 and completed his postgraduate training in London, becoming a consultant in 2007. He has a specialist interest in the management of brain tumours, utilizing a range of techniques including: awake surgery, intraoperative MRI, fluorescence guided resection and Gamma Knife. He works in a multidisciplinary clinic offering long term follow up with both surgeon and specialist oncologist, along with a clinical nurse specialist (CNS).

Full consultant profile

 Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNS)

Orla McKee, Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

Orla McKee

Orla qualified as a registered nurse in 1993 and has worked in many specialist areas of neurosciences since 1993. She has experience as a ward sister for 7 years looking after a variety of patients with brain and spinal issues. She has specialised as a clinical nurse specialist in both benign and malignant brain tumours since 2008.

"I enjoy working within a multidisciplinary team who focus on the complex needs of this group of patients."