Tom Parker: Leading Scottish charity aims to tackle brain cancer that killed The Wanted singer

Scotland’s leading brain disease charity has launched a new initiative to tackle the brain cancer that recently took the life of The Wanted singer Tom Parker

The Neurosciences Foundation is providing preliminary funding to a team of researchers at the University of Edinburgh to enable research into glioblastoma, an adult brain tumour that has incredibly poor survival rates, with only 5% of patients surviving five years after diagnosis. Tom Parker was killed by glioblastoma at the age of 33 in March this year.

This new drive against the killer illness will be carried out by a team of experts led by Alison Hulme, Professor of Synthesis and Chemical Biology, School of Chemistry at Edinburgh University.

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One new and promising approach for many cancers is using immunotherapy, where the immune system is driven to attack tumours and activate inflammation.Immunotherapy has had limited success in glioblastoma patients as the tumour hijacks the immune system to support its own growth and prevents any inflammatory responses.

Tom Parker of The Wanted dies at 33. Photo: Timothy Hiatt/Getty Images for Radio.com.

Mr Parker, originally from Bolton, left behind a widow and two young children.

He disclosed in October 2020 that he had been diagnosed with stage four glioblastoma and had begun radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

In January 2021, he announced that there had been a "significant reduction" in the size of the tumour and that he was "responding well to treatment".

In the weeks prior to his death he had performed on stage with his bandmates as part of their much-delayed reunion tour.

Mr Parker used his platform to campaign for better treatments for those suffering brain traumas.

He told an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Brain Tumours in December: "I'm staggered they can find a cure for Covid within a year but, for decades on end, they haven't found better treatments let alone a cure for brain tumours.

"Why is it taking so long for clinical trials to come through?"

The latest project aims to develop a microscopic polymer bead able to deliver different inflammation-stimulating drugs to immune cells in the brain to activate a strong immune response.

The technique could prevent further tumour growth and stimulate immune cells to attack tumour cells and could reveal a new potential treatment for glioblastoma patients.

The Chair of The Neurosciences Foundation’s Medical Advisory Committee, Professor David Wyper, said: “The sad news of the death of Tom Parker has highlighted the huge task facing researchers in tackling glioblastoma.“The Neuroscience Foundation’s early-stage grant of £10,000 may seem like a drop in the ocean of funding that may be required. But this is the sort of project at which the Foundation excels – identifying opportunities for new treatments and approaches and funding brilliant medical researchers and scientists to help advance progress in the field. Unfortunately, we don’t currently have a source of endowment funding and rely solely on contributions from the public."

The study will largely be conducted by the Hulme Research Group’s Ellen Poot in her PhD project.

Lead Researcher, Professor Alison Hulme, said: “We are delighted to receive this grant which will significantly enhance the research which Ellen is conducting. Glioblastoma is an incredibly challenging target and there are currently very few options for treatment.

"This funding will let us explore a wider range of immune-stimulating drugs, giving us a greater chance of success with this new approach.”

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