Saturday, 2 March 2024
Saturday, 2 March 2024

Brain Tumour Research Chief Executive steps down after cancer diagnosis

THE founder and chief executive of the charity Brain Tumour Research has announced her retirement after undergoing treatment for cancer.

Sue Farrington Smith MBE led the coming together of a number of brain tumour charities to found Brain Tumour Research in 2009. The charity has become the leading voice of the UK brain tumour community and funds four Centres of Excellence with plans to establish a further three. Her passion for the cause comes from the loss of her beloved niece Alison Phelan in 2001 just before her eighth birthday and the many families that she met along the way.

The charity’s director of finance and operations, Ashley Bailey, will take over as interim chief executive until a new leader is appointed.

Sue, who underwent extensive surgery for low-grade abdominal cancer last year, said:

“Although I have made a good recovery, I will continue to have scans and it is in the best interest of the charity and its future growth, and for the sake of my family, that I step down.

“I have always committed 100% of my energies to the success of the charity and our vision of finding a cure for all types of brain tumours but since my phased and now full-time return to work over the last few months, I have realised I no longer have the energy to be able to fulfil this role in the way that I would like and need to.”

She thanked the charity’s trustees and employees plus its supporters across the UK for their dedication and loyalty which have played a crucial role in the charity’s exponential growth.

Sue, who described her time at Brain Tumour Research as ‘the most fulfilling years of my life’, will now take up a new role as a trustee of the charity bringing passion, continuity, lived experience and a broad skill set to complement the board.

Wendy Fulcher, Brain Tumour Research’s chair of trustees, who lost her husband to a brain tumour, said: 

“Neither Sue nor I would have chosen to be part of the brain tumour community, our roles were unwelcomingly thrust upon us.

“However, in the 20 years that we have stood together fighting to improve options and outcomes for those diagnosed with a brain tumour and their families, Sue has been the staunchest of allies and the fiercest of campaigners.

“Her energy levels have been legendary and her leadership and management of the growth of Brain Tumour Research show just what passion and drive can achieve. I am proud of her legacy and her trailblazing work, which will be continued by the charity, but I am also proud to call her my friend and colleague. She is a one-off and the epitome of a brain tumour activist.”

Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under the age of 40 yet, historically, just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has been allocated to this devastating disease.

Brain Tumour Research, which holds the secretariat for the powerful All-Party Parliamentary Group on Brain Tumours, last year saw its best financial performance raising more than £7.5 million to support its work influencing government policy and challenging larger charities to increase their commitment to funding research into brain tumours. It also funds sustainable research at four dedicated Brain Tumour Research Centres of Excellence where leading scientists are working to find new treatments and, ultimately, a cure for all types of brain tumours.

The charity, which started around the kitchen table of Sue’s family home in Padbury, Buckinghamshire, now employs a team of 60 and has its HQ in Milton Keynes. It is the driving force behind the call for a national annual spend of £35 million to improve survival rates and patient outcomes in line with other cancers such as breast, leukaemia, lung and bowel.

Sue was awarded an MBE for services to charity and received her honour from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace in 2017.

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