First Ever UK Paediatric Brain Tumour Symposium

Introduction

I attended this event on Tuesday organised by the charity Brains Trust and found it really interesting.  It was aimed at children and families living with a brain tumour diagnosis, researchers, clinicians and people with a professional interest in brain tumour care.

It was a long day with some really interesting topics covered, from how drugs can be better delivered to brain tumours to promising new therapies to late effects of brain tumours and their impact on education. (click here for a copy of the programme and here for details of the speakers).

Luckily all of the presentations were filmed and posted on YouTube and can be viewed by clicking here so I don’t feel as though I need to cover everything in this blog as I have done for events that I have attended in the past

Instead I’d like to focus in on some of the things I found particularly exciting in some of the presentations.

Drug Delivery

Professor David Walker (Professor of Paediatric Oncology) presented on the challenges of drug delivery and how difficult it is to get the correct amount of a drug to a brain tumour, particularly since it isn’t easy for many drugs to pass through what is know as the blood brain barrier.

One of the approaches David spoke about (there were more in subsequent presentations) was the use of micro-catheters and their use in delivering drugs directly to the tumour although the most exciting thing for me was the prospect of being able to re-visit drugs which had previously been written off due to their inability to cross the blood brain barrier.

Delivering Drugs During Surgery

This presentation was delivered in two sections by Dr Ruman Rahman (an academic assistant professor) and Ms Catherine Vasey (a PhD student).  They both spoke about the exciting procedure of placing drugs within a “container” near to where a tumour was removed during surgery so that the drug could be gradually released at the exact point it’s needed.

Catherine went on to discuss nano-particles and how they could be used to contain drugs and only release them when they enter a cancerous atmosphere.

Electrical Field Therapy

Dr Stuart Smith, a Clinical Associate Professor in Neurosurgery, gave a presentation on electrical fields and how they could be used to disrupt the growth of fast growing cells.  Very exciting but very expensive.

This, in addition to the allure of other promising research that had been presented throughout the morning, prompted me to ask about the availability of such approaches and why our children can’t have access to them now – unfortunately though it was time for lunch and the debate was cut short…

The afternoon session covered some of the practical consequences of having a brain tumour for children from cerebellar mutism syndrome to late effects to the impact on education.

Impact on Education

Louise Robinson, a Neuro Oncology Specialist, working for the charity CLIC Sargent, who supported William whilst we were living in the area gave a really useful presentation on education. She shared some useful links:

A Teachers Guide for Pupils with Brain Tumours

The Brain Tumour Charity – Education Resource

Practical Strategies for the Classroom

Parents Perspectives

A fellow parent of a child with a brain tumour, Pam Wouters, gave a very touching account of her son’s brain tumour journey.  What was really encouraging was hearing another parent speak about the importance of a holistic approach, in particular diet.

It was also humbling to speak to parents who had lost their child but still found the courage to attended the event, many of whom were using their experience to help other children.  I’m not sure I’d have the courage…

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