Sisters who lost their Sunderland mother to brain tumour plead for more funding to research killer condition

Lisa Atkinson and Louise Bircham setup The Lorn's Legacy in memory of their mother Lorna Atkinson
Lisa Atkinson and Louise Bircham setup The Lorn's Legacy in memory of their mother Lorna Atkinson

A pair of sisters who lost their Sunderland mother to a brain tumour have welcomed a new report that highlights the need for more funding into a condition that kills more children and adults under 40 than any other cancer.

Lisa Atkinson and Louise Bircham were left devastated when their mother Lorna Atkinson, of East Herrington, was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumour and passed away in March just 18 months later at the age of 68.

Lorna Atkinson, who died of a brain tumour at the age of 68

Lorna Atkinson, who died of a brain tumour at the age of 68

Devoted to her family, grandmother Lorna went from living an active lifestyle, which included playing badminton and going to Zumba and Boxerfit classes, to becoming 'barely recognisable' to the healthy, outgoing woman she was known as.

After her death, Louise, of Houghton, and Lisa, of Seaham, set up The Lorn's Legacy fundraising group to raise money for the Brain Tumour Research charity.

Brain Tumour Research published its National Research Funding Report last week, aimed at addressing the historic underfunding of research into brain tumours and the devastating consequences of limited treatment options for patients and families.

Figures gained from the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) show that in 2015, charities funded 86% of the national spend on research into brain tumours, while Government spend on brain tumour research represented just 0.52% of its total spend on cancer research.

The Lorn’s Legacy is working with pioneering national charity Brain Tumour Research to press for change.

Louise said: "For more than a generation, governments have failed brain tumour patients and their families with the result that we still know so little about this dreadful disease and treatment options remain limited.

"We must fight for change to bring hope to families in the future who face the news that a loved one has been diagnosed with a brain tumour. If brain tumour research had been given the same levels of funding as breast cancer and leukaemia over the last 20 or 30 years, Mam might still be with us today.

"Mam’s brain tumour changed everything about her; her personality, her appearance, her behaviour; she had changed so much that she was barely recognisable as the sameperson as before. Brain cancer is so cruel."

Chief Executive of Brain Tumour Research, Sue Farrington Smith, said: “Tragic stories like Lorna’s highlight the devastating consequences of limited treatment options for patients and families. Fewer than 20% of brain tumour patients survive beyond five years of their diagnosis, compared with 86% of breast cancer and 51% of leukaemia patients.

“Along with our fundraising groups like The Lorn’s Legacy, we are fighting for parity in cancer research funding so that brain tumour patients can see the same improvements in treatments and outcomes that breast cancer and leukaemia patients have. Together we will find a cure.”

Brain Tumour Research is campaigning to see the national spend on brain tumour research increased to £30-£35million a year, in line with breast cancer and leukaemia, in order to advance treatments and ultimately find a cure.

The charity said statistics show that every week, a family loses their child to a brain tumour, more than those lost, under the age of 15, to leukaemia.

In 2015, the number of children dying of cancer was 194, with brain tumours taking 67 of these (35%) and leukaemia 46 (24%).

The report also reveals that the incidence of brain tumours is rising. Latest figures show that the number of cases in England has grown 19% since 2002, from 3,546 to 4,201 cases in 2014.