£2m bid to cut brain disease toll across Yorkshire

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LEADING doctors and scientists are launching a major multi-million-pound appeal to create a world-class centre of excellence in Yorkshire for research into brain diseases.

The centre, based in Leeds, will target improved care and treatment of a range of degenerative conditions including Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis and dementia.

The Leeds Teaching Hospitals Charitable Foundation, backed by Leeds University and hospitals chiefs in Leeds, is heading the appeal to raise £2m by 2015 towards a final total of £6m.

One in six adults suffer from diseases of the brain but numbers are likely to increase significantly in coming decades as the population ages.

Numbers of over-65s in Yorkshire will increase by nearly half in the next 20 years to 1.3 million, with numbers aged over 85 set to rise 90 per cent to 220,000.

By 2030 cases of Parkinson’s are predicted to increase by 20 per cent, while numbers of dementia patients will soar by 80 per cent – there are already 58,000 people with the condition in the region.

The centre will aim to attract the highest calibre clinicians and scientists from around the world,which is expected to lead to better diagnosis, treatment and outcomes for patients in the region, who will get improved access to the latest trials.

One key aim will be to enhance links between researchers and doctors.

Yorkshire philanthropist Sir Robert Ogden, who is patron of the campaign, and has made a personal donation of £250,000 towards the target, said he was proud to offer his support to create a centre of excellence.

“Bringing scientists and clinicians together to conduct research and clinical trials is critically important to finding a way to deal with this problem that threatens to overwhelm us,” he said.

“The outcome will potentially benefit not only the people of Yorkshire, but the entire world.

“Degenerative diseases of the brain such as Alzheimer’s are one of the biggest challenges we all will face this century.

“I ask the people of Yorkshire to support the appeal generously for the benefit of this and future generations.”

Consultant neurologist Helen Ford, based at Leeds General Infirmary, said: “As the population gets older, there will be a significant increase in brain conditions in Yorkshire in the near future.

“To have a centre of excellence for brain research at Leeds means that patients do not have to travel out of the county.

“The centre will conduct research for patient benefit and will help Yorkshire scientists find new treatments and drug therapies as well as conduct clinical trials.

“This is an exciting time for brain research with many new discoveries in treatments for neurological conditions.”

Leading clinician Peter Selby, professor of cancer medicine at Leeds University, who has played a key role drawing up a business case for the centre, said the initiative offered a major opportunity for research in the field which caused a “massive health burden”.

It would allow “fantastic science” being carried out in laboratories in the city to be better connected to hospital clinics, bridging the gap to translate research directly into care.

He said it was vital to meet the highest standards in research with the goal of attracting funding to “compete with the best nationally and internationally”.

“Really good research will lead to really good care,” he said. “There are clear benefits for patients.”

The announcement comes as a new report from The Brain Tumour Charity highlights major limitations in the quality of care and information being given to people living with brain tumours and their carers.

The report Finding a Better Way? Improving the Quality of Life for People Living with Brain Tumours says the limitations are having a direct impact on patients’ quality of life.

Sarah Lindsell, chief executive of The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “Tens of thousands of healthcare professionals, from GPs and Clinical Nurse Specialists to Neurosurgeons and Radiologists, are involved in the care of more than 55,000 people living with a brain tumour in the UK.”