In Brain News, Research News

Finally – some hope for people living with a glioblastoma (GBM). This news from Northwest Biotherapeutics on the DCVax clinical trials has been a long time coming; we’re delighted to be sharing this news with the community. 

What’s the bottom line? 

Both endpoints were met with statistical significance. This means that DCVax®-L made a difference to the overall survival for some patients with newly diagnosed GBM (nGBM) and recurrent GBM (RGBM).

As stated in the recent press release on the DCVax trials:

Median survival for people with nGBM who are treated with the current standard of care is about 15-17 months from surgery [1]. These phase 3 trial results show a median overall survival of 33 months from surgery for nGBM patients with methylated MGMT, and about 18 months from surgery for patients with unmethylated MGMT. Median survival is the time—expressed in months or years – at which half the patients are expected to be alive. It means that the chance of surviving beyond that time is 50 percent.

Median overall survival for patients with rGBM was 13.2 months from recurrence with DCVax®-L compared to 7.8 months in the control patients who received existing treatments. 

You can read the full press release here.


Why do we think this is exciting news?

A GBM is hard to treat for a variety of reasons:

  • The brain is a privileged and delicate site, so you can’t just go in and remove the tumour surgically.
  • The brain has a protective barrier around it (the blood brain barrier) which stops therapies reaching the tumour
  • The brain tumour is heterogeneous – that means it is made of a different cancer cells so it is hard to target
  • Tumours change over time – a tumour at recurrence is a different tumour from a newly diagnosed tumour.

All of this means that we will need multiple therapies in different combinations to treat GBM. It also explains why we have had years of failures with clinical trials for GBM; from 2005 to 2016 we have had 417 GBM trials, involving just under 32,000 patients. Only 16 trials have reached phase 3 with only 1 positive trial – tumour treating fields [2]. So to finally have a trial with a positive endpoint is very exciting news. 

The challenges that we anticipate with this news

There is a caveat. Nobody should create false hope for the GBM community, which is vulnerable and desperate for a solution. 

This is not yet available on the NHS, it isn’t appropriate for all patients, and it isn’t a cure. Whilst Northwest Biotherapeutics is working hard to achieve market access in as short a time as possible we do need to be realistic about what is achievable. We are privileged to be in dialogue with Northwest Biotherapeutics and we will of course keep you updated with any developments. Know that our support continues, no matter where you are on this pathway. 

Helen Bulbeck, our Director of Services, on what is needed now:

What is needed is a fast track system whereby people can access these therapies quickly. It used to exist with the Cancer Drugs Fund but since 2016 this fund is now part of the NICE process that decides which cancer drugs are available on the NHS. So the bureaucracy involved in getting innovative and adaptive treatments to the community is still a layered barrier. Parity of access to transformative treatments is very much on our agenda for the year ahead. 

Need help now?

If you have any questions call us on 01983 292405 or email us on

Click here to visit our Glioblastoma hub for patients and caregivers for information on treatments, support services and connecting with the community.


[1] Fernandes C, Costa A, Osório L, et al. Current Standards of Care in Glioblastoma Therapy. In: De Vleeschouwer S, editor. Glioblastoma [Internet]. Brisbane (AU): Codon Publications; 2017 Sep 27. Chapter 11. Available from: doi: 10.15586/codon.glioblastoma.2017.ch11

[2] Vanderbeek AM, Rahman R, Fell G, Ventz S, Chen T, Redd R, Parmigiani G, Cloughesy TF, Wen PY, Trippa L, Alexander BM. The clinical trials landscape for glioblastoma: is it adequate to develop new treatments? Neuro Oncol. 2018 Jul 5;20(8):1034-1043. doi: 10.1093/neuonc/noy027. PMID: 29518210; PMCID: PMC6280141.


The Brain Tumour Data Dashboard lets you explore up -to-date, population level data about the brain tumours diagnosed in England between 2013 and 2015. Using the drop down menus on the left you can select different groups of patients to view in the charts below. In these charts the number of patients for every 100 diagnoses is displayed as images of people. Patients have been grouped by date of diagnosis, type of tumour, age, gender, and region in England.

For each group of patients you can explore the different routes to diagnosis, the proportion of those who received chemotherapy or radiotherapy, as well as the survival of the patients within each group. For more information about what these metrics mean please see the glossary.

How to use

  1. Select the year of diagnosis using the drop down menu.
  2. Select your patient group of interest from the four drop down menus in the following order:
    1. Tumour group
    2. Age at diagnosis
    3. Region of England
    4. Gender of patient
  3. To view a second chart to compare different groups of patients, click the ‘compare’ button.The second chart will appear below the first chart.

*Note that the tool is best used on a laptop or tablet rather than a mobile phone*

Unavailable data

Some of the data in these charts is not available.There are two main reasons for this:

  1. How the data has been grouped

If you cannot select a patient group from the drop down menus, the data is unavailable because of how the data has been organised.

Public Health England has grouped the data like a branching tree. The bottom of the tree contains all the patients with brain tumours, and then each branch divides the data by a certain characteristics, like age, or location of tumour. But the data is divided in an order, starting with location of the tumour (endocrine or brain), then by age, region, and gender. Age is at the start because it makes a bigger difference to survival rates and treatment rates than gender or region. Sometimes, after the data has been split by type of tumour and age, there is not enough data to be split again. This is because to protect patient confidentiality groups cannot contain less than 100 patients. Because some groups cannot be split further, you cannot create ‘totals’ for everyone by region or gender. For example, you cannot see results for all ages by region, or all brain tumours by gender. If these totals were calculated and released, it might be possible to identify patients, which is why Public Health England cannot release this data.

  1. Statistical reasons and data availability

If you can select a patient group from the chart menus, but the chart does not display, the data is unavailable for one of several reasons:

  1. Data is not yet available for the selected year from Public Health England.
  2. Data is not available because the data quality is too poor to release this statistic.
  3. Data is not available as the statistic is not appropriate for this group.
  4. Data is not available because the standard error of the estimate was greater than 20% and so the estimate has been supressed.

Up to date brain tumour data

Brain tumour data may influence the decisions you make about your care. Data also helps you understand the bigger picture, or landscape, in which you find yourself.

Brain tumour data and statistics influence the focus, and work of organisations like brainstrust. The information helps us to understand the scale and impact of the problems we are setting out to solve.

This tool helps you understand the landscape in which you find yourself having been diagnosed with a brain tumour. This landscape can be particularly tricky to navigate as there are many different types of brain tumour, all of which have a different impact.

The information you see represents the most up-to-date, official, population level brain tumour data available for England. Over time we will be adding to the brain tumour data available and publishing reports, with recommendations, as a result of what we learn from this data.

The data behind this content has come from Public Health England’s National Cancer Registration and Analysis Service (NCRAS) and is a direct result of the ‘Get Data Out’ project.

This project provides anonymised population level brain tumour data for public use in the form of standard output tables, accessible here:


The number or rate (per head of population) of new cases of a disease diagnosed in a given population during a specified time period (usually a calendar year). The crude rate is the total number of cases divided by the mid-year population, usually expressed per 100,000 population.


Malignant tumours which grow by invasion into surrounding tissues and have the ability to metastasise to distant sites


The number or rate (per head of population) of deaths in a given population during a specified time period (usually a calendar year). The crude rate is the total number of deaths divided by the mid-year population, usually expressed per 100,000 population.


Not cancerousNon-malignant tumours may grow larger but do not spread to other parts of the body.


The length of time from the date of diagnosis for a disease, such as cancer, that patients diagnosed with the disease are still alive. In a clinical trial, measuring the survival is one way to see how well a new treatment works. Also called ‘overall survival’ or ‘OS’.

Routes to Diagnosis

Under the ‘Routes to Diagnosis’ tab in the Brain Tumour Data Dashboard, you can explore the ways patients have been diagnosed with brain tumours. There are many ways, or routes, for cancers to be diagnosed in the NHS. A ‘route to diagnosis’ is the series of events between a patient and the healthcare system that leads to a diagnosis of cancer. The routes include:

  1. Two Week Wait

Patients are urgently referred by their GP for suspected cancer via the Two Week Wait system and are seen by a specialist within 2 weeks where they are diagnosed.

  1. GP referral

Diagnosis via a GP referral includes routine and urgent referrals where the patient was not referred under the Two Week Wait system.

  1. Emergency Presentation

Cancers can be diagnosed via emergency situations such as via A&E, emergency GP referral, emergency transfer or emergency admission.

  1. Outpatient

Outpatient cancer diagnoses include diagnoses via an elective route which started with an outpatient appointment that is either a self-referral or consultant to consultant referral. (It does not include those under the Two Week Wait referral system).

  1. Inpatient elective

Diagnosis via an inpatient elective route is where diagnosis occurs after the patient has been admitted into secondary care from a waiting list, or where the admission is booked or planned.

  1. Death Certificate Only

Diagnoses made by Death Certificate Only are made where there is no more information about the cancer diagnosis other than the cancer related death notifications. The date of diagnosis is the same as that of the date of death.

  1. Unknown

For some patients with a cancer diagnosis, there is no relevant data available to understand the route to diagnosis.


More information

If any of the statistical terms in this section of the brainstrust website are hard to understand, we recommend looking them up here:

Cancer Research UK’s Cancer Statistics Explained

If you are looking for help understanding terms relating specifically to brain tumours, and treatment, then the brainstrust glossary is available here: