John Apps
Dr John Apps

A researcher at the University of Birmingham has won a prestigious honour which will help him progress his work to find a cure for brain tumours.

Dr John Apps has been named Young Investigator of the Year by the British Neuro-Oncology Society (BNOS). He was awarded the £2,000 prize as scientists at the forefront of research into the disease came together for the BNOS Annual Meeting, taking place virtually for the first time (8 – 9 July).

He receives the prestigious honour for his work on craniopharyngioma, a low-grade brain tumour most commonly found in children. The award, which recognises an early-career researcher who has made an outstanding contribution to the field of neuro-oncology in the UK, is co-sponsored by the charity Brain Tumour Research.

John is a National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) Academic Clinical Lecturer at the University of Birmingham and Paediatric Oncology Registrar at Birmingham Women’s and Children’s NHS Foundation Trust. He is also an Honorary Lecturer at University College London Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health, where the majority of the work contributing to the prize was carried out, during a Cancer Research UK funded PhD fellowship.

He said: “I am absolutely delighted to win this award. Paediatric craniopharyngioma is a niche area and it is great to be recognised within the wider field of neuro-oncology. In receiving this award, I am also extremely grateful to my supervisors, their teams, and the very wide range of collaborators and contributors who have made the work possible.”

Patients with craniopharyngioma are currently treated with surgery, followed by radiotherapy. During his PhD, John helped identify novel treatment strategies for these patients. In particular, by understanding which genes are expressed within the tumour, he was able to identify targets for drugs. One group of drugs called MEK inhibitors has given encouraging results and it is hoped that a clinical trial will be open later this year.

Sue Farrington Smith MBE, Chief Executive at Brain Tumour Research, said: “We send our congratulations to John for this well-deserved recognition of his work into this very under-researched brain tumour.

“We are proud to co-sponsor the Young Investigator Award with BNOS. It is so vital that young researchers are encouraged to remain in the field of brain tumour research as they are the future and will unlock this complex puzzle, getting us closer to a cure for this devastating disease.”

BNOS exists to promote high-quality multi-disciplinary neuro-oncology research, education, and patient centred care. The Annual Meeting provides those working in neuro-oncology in the UK the opportunity to meet to learn, discuss and impart findings.

Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, yet historically just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.

Brain Tumour Research funds sustainable research at dedicated centres in the UK. It also campaigns for the Government and the larger cancer charities to invest more in research into brain tumours in order to speed up new treatments for patients and, ultimately, to find a cure. The charity is calling for a national annual spend of £35 million in order to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast cancer and leukaemia and is also campaigning for greater repurposing of drugs.