Closed petition Fund OPTUNE brain cancer treatment for NHS patients

Optune treatment uses a novel “tumour treatment” electromagnetic field to treat cancer. It has been shown to be effective in brain tumours and is widely available in the US and Germany. This treatment is currently not available from the NHS.

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This treatment can help improve patients' quality of life and given that the number of treatment options for Brain Tumours are limited, this treatment should be funded. Currently some patients self fund or have private insurance but this treatment should be available to all, not to just those that can afford it. Brain tumours are the greatest cause of cancer deaths in the under 40’s; funding this treatment will give effective treatment and hope to patients and families.

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Government responded

This response was given on 30 March 2022

Guidelines recommend tumour-treating fields, such as OPTUNE, should not be offered for NHS patients. However, the Government recognises the importance of research and new treatments for brain tumours.

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National Institute of Health and Care Excellence guidelines are evidence-based recommendations for health and social care professionals in England. They set out the care and services suitable for most people with a specific condition or need, and people in particular circumstances. They are developed by experts based on a thorough assessment of the available evidence and extensive engagement with interested parties. They represent best practice and should be taken fully into account in the care and treatment of individual patients.

In its guidelines on brain tumours in adults, the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence recommends that tumour-treating fields, such as OPTUNE, should not be offered as part of management of a newly diagnosed grade IV glioma (glioblastoma) or as part of management of recurrent high-grade glioma.

The Government is investing in treatments that have a beneficial effect on brain tumour patients. For instance, a £250 million investment into proton beam therapy facilities at The Christie Hospital in Manchester and University College London Hospital in London will treat up to 1,300 patients every year. Proton beam therapy is a type of radiotherapy which treats specific types of cancer by precisely targeting tumours close to a critical part of the body such as the brain or spinal cord, reducing the damage to surrounding healthy tissues and vital organs.

Research is crucial in tackling brain cancer, which is why the Department of Health and Social Care invests in health research through the National Institute for Health Research. National Institute for Health Research expenditure on cancer research was £73.5 million in 2020/21.

In May 2018 the Government announced funding worth £40 million over five years for brain tumour research as part of the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission through the National Institute for Health Research. Brain tumours is a difficult research area with a relatively small research community, so we are taking actions to grow the field, such as through workshops for researchers, and research training for clinicians.

National Institute for Health Research released a public announcement to the research community in April 2018, making clear the Government’s desire to receive brain tumour research funding applications.

The National Institute for Health Research welcomes funding applications for research into any aspect of human health, including brain tumour research. As with other Government funders of health research, the National Institute for Health Research does not allocate funding for specific disease areas. The level of research spend in a particular area is driven by factors including scientific potential, and the number and scale of successful funding applications.

The Department works closely with research funding partners such as Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council, and brain tumour charities, who fund research into new scientific discoveries.

Department of Health and Social Care