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Help Harry Help Others and Aston University partner to develop pioneering treatment of brain tumours

by Leah Llano

Birmingham based charity, Help Harry Help Others and Aston University researchers, are working together to develop a pioneering pre-surgical diagnostic tool, which could see the eventual outcome of children with brain tumours drastically improve.

Help Harry Help Others, which became a registered charity in September 2012 and marked its 10th anniversary last year, was founded by Georgie Moseley, following the passing of her son Harry. Despite fighting an inoperable brain tumour, Harry raised over £750,000 for cancer research in the last two years of his life, before he passed away on 8th October 2011, aged just 11 years old.

Now, through the charity’s HelpCure initiative, Help Harry Help Others are pledging £36,000 worth of funding to support an Aston University PhD student at Aston Institute of Health and Neurodevelopment to complete their three years of study and research.

Timothy Mulvany, 24 will work with Dr Jan Novak, whose own study was funded in 2013 by Help Harry Help Others, before he went on to work as a postdoctoral researcher under Harry’s consultant, Professor Andrew Peet who is based at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

Now a lecturer in Psychology at Aston University, Dr Jan Novak will supervise Timothy Mulvany as they focus on developing a tool that uses MRI data collected before surgery, in order to accurately diagnose the type of brain tumour a patient has. In doing so, medical teams can advise on the surgical tumour removal, helping to minimise unnecessary follow-up therapies and reduce the likelihood of long-term deficits that have devastating effects on patient health, education, and social development.

Dr Novak explains “Early, accurate diagnosis of brain tumours in children can drastically improve both survival and eventual outcome. Although medical imaging, including magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), is used to locate tumours prior to surgery, conclusive diagnosis is currently only possible via post-surgical testing. This post-surgical diagnosis limits the success of initial tumour removal.

“The development of a pre-surgical diagnostic tool has the potential for substantial clinical impact: it can improve surgical management, facilitate treatment planning, aid family discussions, minimise long-term impairments for patients, and reduce NHS costs associated with non-essential additional therapies.”

Part of Harry’s mission was to raise funds to help research projects find a cure for brain tumours. Currently, research into brain tumours makes up just 1% of the national spend on cancer research and yet across the UK, more children and people under the age of 40 die of a brain tumour, than any other cancer. The Help Harry Help Others HelpCure initiative has so far provided over £240,000 worth of funding to research projects.

The research will be carried out at  Aston Institute for Health and Neurodevelopment (IHN), a key research institute at Aston University which focuses on children’s health. IHN researchers have access to advanced neuroimaging and scanning facilities, to help facilitate the vast array of research being undertaken. The centre hosts Care Quality Commission registered clinical services, which help create a rich hub of opportunity for world-leading research and the education of young scholars. Members of IHN strive to generate world-leading translational neuroscience research.

Timothy, who previously studied maths and physics at University of Warwick, specialising along the astrophysics and computational path, said of his PhD funding, “I’m extremely eager and motivated to develop and utilise my existing knowledge, applying it in a way which will hopefully make a difference to children’s health. I hope to do everything I can in my research to improve the set of tools available when diagnosing children, and hopefully have a positive impact on the treatment they receive.”

Georgie Moseley of Help Harry Help Others concludes, “Continuing research into brain tumours is paramount if we are ever going to find a cure for this devastating disease. When my son Harry was ill and undergoing treatment, I was in awe of these fantastic individuals who were tirelessly looking after him and exploring new ways in which we could treat his tumour.  Sadly, Harry passed in 2011, but his fight for winning the battle against cancer lives on through the charity.

“Being able to work with Aston University and help fund the next generation of doctors, consultants and professors in undertaking research, is just one way we can keep the hope for finding a cure alive. If Harry’s passing plays a part in a cure for brain tumours being found, then what a wonderful legacy.”

The charity will continue with its fundraising efforts to raise yearly funds towards the studentship programme, including the 2023 Birmingham Walkathon which will take place on Sunday 2nd April,.

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