The UK’s first dedicated Brain Tumour Unit opens 

21/02/2011 00:00 

The NHS will take a major step in improving the care of patients with brain cancer when the first dedicated Brain Tumour Unit opens at The National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery (NHNN), part of University College Hospitals London NHS Foundation Trust (UCLH). 

The National Brain Appeal

The National Brain Appeal, the charity that supports the hospital by funding clinical posts, cutting edge technology, infrastructure and research, has invested a total of £2.5 million in the unit and brain cancer service.

Every day at least 20 people are diagnosed with a brain tumour.  The Brain Tumour Unit and its pioneering team of specialist doctors, nurses, therapists and researchers will pave the way for breakthroughs in the treatment and understanding of the disease for the benefit of anyone affected in the UK. Funding from The National Brain Appeal has been crucial for enabling this vital work.

Patients will benefit from rapid assessment and treatment thanks to the dedicated unit and multidisciplinary team, all specialists in brain tumours. 

The 12-bed inpatient and assessment unit will provide support for patients, families and carers while they are in hospital and after they are discharged.  Work on clinical trials and research into tumours also forms a fundamental part of the work carried out by the team.

The hospital’s comprehensive brain cancer service has developed significantly over the past three years, with key clinical and research staff recruited with the help of the charity.

UCLH now has significant capacity for a range of brain tumour clinical trials.  They have six studies currently open and were the number one recruiter worldwide for a recent trial.  This is a direct result of The National Brain Appeal funding clinical trials staff. The charity has also provided funds to help set up a Brain Tumour Tissue Bank which will be a significant resource for research into brain cancer in the UK and internationally.

Mr Neil Kitchen, consultant neurosurgeon at NHNN, said:
“The Brain Tumour Unit is so much more than a physical space for us to treat patients.  It will allow us to create a critical mass of expertise and experience among all the professional groups involved.  This concentration of clinical expertise, alongside being the most active centre for clinical trials and leading scientific research into the genetic profiling of tumours, will enable the unit to become a beacon for the treatment of brain cancer in the UK.”

Theresa Dauncey, chief executive of The National Brain Appeal, said: 
“Sadly, unlike most other cancers, the prognosis for brain tumours has changed little over the last century. There is a real and pressing need for more research and investment into understanding and treating brain cancer.  It is the most common cancer killer of the under 40s and the biggest cancer killer of children in the UK.  It is also the highest of all cancers to be diagnosed at a critical stage with 58 per cent of patients in England presenting as emergencies.  We hope the public will continue to donate to this vital work and we urge people to be “brain aware” and note the symptoms.  Severe headaches, fits, unexplained numbness, vision, speech or concentration problems could all be signs of a tumour.”  

Sir Robert Naylor, UCLH chief executive, said:
“This is a great milestone in the development of our brain cancer service. We are delighted to work alongside The National Brain Appeal to make a real difference for people with brain cancer.”

Patients at the Brain Tumour Unit will also benefit from other recent charity supported investments such as the latest MRI scanning equipment in the hospital’s neuroimaging suite and the interventional MRI operating theatre - the BrainSuite neuronavigation system.  The BrainSuite provides an angiography, MRI and surgical facility – another UK first and the first in the world for neuro use – and enables real time scanning of the brain and spine during surgery to enable greater accuracy and safer surgery. 

The Brain Tumour Unit’s oncologists deliver radiotherapy with state of the art equipment including Rapidarc which allows for quicker, more targeted radiotherapy and fewer side effects, as well as IMRT (intensity modulated radiotherapy) and standard radiotherapy.  UCLH is also in line to be one of just two centres in the country to provide Proton Beam Therapy which will enable even greater accuracy and reduce damage to surrounding tissues.


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