Family of Chorley four-year-old with life-threatening brain tumour welcomes ‘invaluable’ new research centre

Chorley-born Indie Thomas was just four when she began to become sick, incontinent, and unable to walk properly. An inoperable mass on her brain was discovered, and she was diagnosed with a low-grade glioma in September 2021. All of a sudden, her world was turned upside down.
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Rushed to Royal Preston Hospital before being transferred to Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, Indie had an emergency operation, but surgeons could only remove a small sample due to the tumour’s sensitive location. She had a shunt fitted to remove excess fluid and relieve the pressure behind her eyes, and - aged just six - is now on chemotherapy.

Despite brain tumours killing more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer, just 1% of the national spend on cancer research has historically been allocated to this devastating disease. But, there is hope: a £2.5m funding agreement for a new research centre at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) in Surrey was recently announced.

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“Our whole world revolves around Indie’s tumour, so anything that can progress research into this devastating disease is so important,” says Indie’s mother, Danielle Thomas. “The tumour has stolen Indie’s childhood; she’s sat in bed being violently sick because of the treatment with not very much reward and that really hurts.

Indie Thomas outside hospital-Indie Thomas outside hospital-
Indie Thomas outside hospital-

“Our lives would be completely different if more research into this type of brain tumour had been done earlier,” she adds. “We can do unbelievable things in this day and age, but we haven’t found a cure for brain tumours. Children shouldn’t be losing their lives because of a lack of Government funding.

“[Chemo] makes her poorly for days with vomiting, cold sweats, muscle cramps, and aches,” continues Danielle, 29. “This drug is the only thing stopping the beast in her brain from growing and causing even more damage than it already has. The tumour has taken all the sight in Indie’s left eye, and half of the sight in her right eye. It's absolutely heartbreaking.”

With the new centre boasting ambitious plans to identify new treatments for high-grade glioma brain tumours and set up much-needed clinical trials, Danielle has spent March, which is Brain Tumour Awareness Month, raising awareness and funds for the cause, culminating in a 26-mile charity walk from Blackpool to Chorley with friends and family on April 1st.

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“I sit and cry sometimes, but that doesn’t do anything,” Danielle says. “I’m walking for Indie, but also for all the other people who are going through this. If we can raise money and awareness, then something good will come out of this horrible mess, because I don’t want all of this to be for nothing.”

Danielle and Indie Thomas in hospitalDanielle and Indie Thomas in hospital
Danielle and Indie Thomas in hospital

“These tumours are incredibly resistant to current treatments and children are in desperate need of new options,” explains Chris Jones, Professor of Childhood Brain Tumour Biology at The Institute of Cancer Research. “Our lab is working to unravel the underlying biology of these dreadful tumours, and hopefully uncover new ways to attack them.

“This invaluable support from Brain Tumour Research will help to fuel new discoveries,” he adds. “And pave the way to smarter, kinder treatments.”

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