In Research News

‘Game-changing’ research

The topic of brain cancer treatment and potential developments is an emotive and extremely sensitive subject – we all want to hear that there has been a huge breakthrough or read that the whole landscape may soon be changing. But in reality, we need to be honest and transparent about this progress for anyone involved or affected by this life-limiting disease.

Mainstream news outlets have shared articles this weekend about some brain tumour research, and the headline ‘Early findings show new drug could be game-changing for brain cancer treatment’ highlights how easy it is to create false hope and unrealistic expectations for a vulnerable population – people living with a glioblastoma. The use of strong language like ‘game-changing’ creates an exaggerated impression of the trial. This can undermine the actual steps being accomplished in improving the outlook for people with brain cancer.

What is the real news?

This is a phase 1 trial, based around immunotherapy. A phase 1 trial sees if a drug works and is for a small number of patients. In this trial, 10 patients tried a combination of two drugs. Two patients showed a response, which means that eight didn’t – in other words, the treatment was unsuccessful for 80% of the participants.

This research by the Royal Marsden is certainly a baby step in the right direction, but ‘game-changing’? This suggests that we should be changing the way things are done.

We know that brain cancer is a complex disease with complex biology. We know too that when a brain tumour comes back it isn’t the same tumour as when it first started. This means that we will need a combination of treatments and a really good understanding of the biology of the tumour if we are going to make any progress against a GBM diagnosis. So, although the work being done across various trials is helping us to continue expanding our knowledge and finding potential new treatments, it is pivotal that we pace our expectations and not allow ourselves to publish information that misrepresents the reality.

We need to be clear, honest and careful with what we share and how we talk about research, ensuring at every stage that the brain cancer community is being provided with fair and realistic news.

If you’re living with a brain tumour and have any questions around this latest news, or want to access support, give us a call on 01983 292 405 or email hello@brainstrust.org.uk