Small But Fierce: Four Funders Come Together for Brain Tumor Research

Would it be the understatement of the century if we told you brain tumors are a big problem? Yeah, probably. But they’re a big, pitifully underfunded problem, so let’s reiterate just how deadly they really are in order to underscore the lame lack of funding backing brain tumor research. Ninety-five percent of people diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme die within 18 months. Survival rates for other forms of brain tumors aren’t much better. But due to the malady’s randomness, funding is hard to come by. Brain cancer isn’t a systemic problem like diabetes or obesity; it doesn't hit a focused demographic, like breast cancer. Brain cancer research is supported by a handful of optimistic but admittedly limited foundations—plus a few larger private foundations like the Sontag Foundation and the Ivy Foundation. (See IP's Funding Guide for Brain Research)

Now, a handful of these players are pooling their efforts.

Less than a week into the new year, the National Brain Tumor Society, Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure, the Musella Foundation for Brain Tumor Research and Information, and The Society for Neuro-Oncology joined together to found the Jumpstarting Brain Tumor Drug Development Coalition. This coalition hopes to advance brain tumor “clinical trial endpoints,” which is a jargony way of saying, “drug benefits.” In addition to philanthropies, the coalition is also bringing in clinicians, researchers, biopharma and the FDA in order to pool knowledge and influence in pursuit of better drugs and better outcomes. The coalition’s first big move was the scheduling of two workshops—the first, convened in January, covered imaging-related endpoints. The second, which will occur in May, will examine the similarities between clinical endpoints and patient-reported outcomes.

It will be especially interesting to see how this initiative progresses, not just for the sake of future brain cancer research, but for what it says—or has the potential to say—about all the philanthropies involved. Brain tumor research is one of those few fields where foundations seem quick to collaborate, which we always like to see (for example: Brain Tumor Funders’ Collaborative).

The National Brain Tumor Society seems to be the one leading this newest wave of cooperation, so we’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for any future organizational shifts or expansions this may portend.