We are currently working in close consultation with Professor Steven Clifford at the Sir James Spence Institute, Newcastle University, to establish the most urgent funding needs for research programmes. Everyone within the Paediatric Oncology field is united in the opinion that there is an urgent need for new and better treatments of childhood brain tumours. The Northern Institute for Cancer Research work at a National and International level to try and discover better ways of treating brain tumours. 

Professor Steven Clifford commented,

"Blue Skye Thinking is a Charity that understands the struggle that research groups encounter when trying to establish new ways to treat childhood cancer. Supporting research as the charity does brings an opportunity to develop new therapies to improve survival rates of children with brain tumours, which can be translated into better quality of life and reduced toxicities related to therapy in surviving patients."

Current treatments do not have the desired cure rates and those that are cured do not have the desired quality of life post treatment. The April 2013 review of National Brain Tumour Research Funding Flows once again re-iterates the desperate need for further research in this vital area. The cumulative research spend on brain tumours between 2002 and 2011 was less than 1% of all NCRI research spending.

Meet Gemma Llargues: Paediatric Brain Tumour Researcher funded by Blue Skye Thinking

Gemma Llargues Sistac, said,

"My growing interest in understanding the principles of cancer, how it initiates, progresses and eventually metastases, led me to undertake a MSc in Cancer cell and Molecular Biology at the University of Leicester, where I worked at the Centre of Genetic Architecture of Complex Traits.  I have been given the opportunity to work in the paediatric brain tumour research group at the Northern Institute, to better understand disease biology and find new cures to treat medulloblastoma."

Gemma’s role within the next 4 years will be to identify effective drug combinations which could be advanced towards clinical use for medulloblastoma, to improve survival rates and reduce toxicities related to therapies. The group has developed different experimental models of medulloblastoma, which harbor the critical genetic changes in Group 3 medulloblastoma.  She will use these models, alongside contemporary molecular tools, to identify candidate combination therapies and genetic dependencies which could be exploited to target tumours with these genetic characteristics.

"Medulloblastoma is the most common malignant brain tumor in children. Despite recent improvements in cure rates, prediction of disease outcome remains a major challenge and survivors suffer from serious therapy-related side-effects."

Abstract from Integrated Genomics Identifies Five Medulloblastoma Subtypes with Distinct Genetic Profiles, Pathway Signatures and Clinicopathological Features: Published August 28, 2008




We are pleased to confirm that Blue Skye Thinking are funding a large, interactive, and child friendly art installation made from the 30,000m of loom bands donated by children from around the world to Skye Hall, who was being treated at the Oxford Children’s Hospital at the time. We understand that the artwork is to be housed in a communal space in the main atrium of the Children’s Hospital. Project ‘Loom to the Moon’ was widely supported and it will be a wonderful way to reflect this support from the community.

This scheme is a collaborative effort from numerous sources including the Oxford University Hospitals' Trust, Carillion, the Artist, the Childrens' Hospital School, the Charity and a range of other interested parties.

 A sum of £5,000 has already been paid to OUH Charitable Funds by Blue Skye Thinking to cover Phase 1 of the project.

PhD Research Position (4years)

fundraising ideas for schools, churches, and youth sports teams


By funding a PhD research post we can get that one step closer to unlocking the science behind this devastating disease and one step closer to a cure. Thank you to all our donors for making this possible! Gemma Llargues Sistac started in January 2016. Please see above for further details of her work.

Aim Skye High Post Doc Appeal

fundraising ideas for schools, churches, and youth sports teams

Post Doctoral Researchers lead specific research projects, accelerating the work within a Research Centre.

Relapsed brain tumours carry the most devastating prognosis – fewer than 10% of children who relapse following current therapies will survive.  We would like to fund a three year Post Doctoral research position at the renowned Northern Institute for Cancer Research, specialising in pioneering work on the biology of relapsed brain tumours in order to develop new targeted treatments.

Children's Hospital Loom Band Art

fundraising ideas for schools, churches, and youth sports teams

We are working hard to raise money for a fabulous art installation to co-incide with the Childrens' Hospital 10th Anniversary.

Hospital Puppet & Magic Show

fundraising ideas for schools, churches, and youth sports teams

Just a small donation can go a long way and can give children much needed light relief during the invasive treatment process to support their emotional well-being. Skye loved magic and always cherished visits from some wonderful entertainers. A puppet and magic show is being written and created, and a magician is on board to tour with Blue Skye Thinking to all of the paediatric oncology wards across the country, to brighten their days and stimulate their minds.

Paediatric Nervous System Tumours

Medulloblastoma and neuroblastoma account for >30% of childhood cancer deaths and are major challenges in the management of children with cancer. Our team of researchers aim to understand the molecular mechanisms of tumour development by using genomic, cell biology and model-system approaches. This research will lead to new personalised or patient-centred therapies with increased survival and lower therapy-associated late effects.

At all levels, our research goals are supported by close integration with National and International clinical networks and engagement in local, National and International research collaborations.

Research activities in paediatric nervous system tumours:

The clinical, histological and molecular characterisation of medulloblastoma represents an important area of research to improve disease subclassification and the identification of genes critical to disease development. There has been a discovery of molecular medulloblastoma subgroups with distinct clinical features and outcomes. Indeed, biological and histological markers have been identified and validated for risk-stratification of medulloblastoma patients.

This research will be used to facilitate patient stratification in pan-European clinical trials, and early-phase clinical trials of new therapeutic strategies.


Professor Steven Clifford, Prof of Molecular Paediatric Oncology

  • Email: steve.clifford@ncl.ac.uk
  • Telephone: +44 (0) 191 282 1319
  • Fax: +44 (0) 191 282 1326
  • Address: Northern Institute for Cancer Research,
    Newcastle University,
    Level 5, Sir James Spence Institute, 
    Royal Victoria Infirmary, 
    Newcastle upon Tyne,
    NE1 4LP, U.K.

Roles and Responsibilities

Lead, Paediatric Brain Tumour Research Group, Northern Institute for Cancer Research

Co-lead, Childhood Cancer Research Theme, Northern Institute for Cancer Research

Executive Board, Northern Institute for Cancer Research

Newcastle University Senate



BSc (Hons) in Applied Biology (1st class), University of Wales College of Cardiff (1991)

PhD in Cancer Molecular Biology, University of Newcastle (1994)


Previous Positions

1998 MRC Research Fellowship, University of Birmingham, U.K.

1997 Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, University of Birmingham, U.K.

1995 Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, University of Cambridge, U.K.

1994 Post-Doctoral Research Associate, University of Newcastle, U.K.