Baroness Jowell calls for better cancer treatment in House of Lords debate

Friday 26 January 2018

Former Cabinet minister Tessa Jowell led a debate in the House of Lords yesterday where she asked the Government to support her call for an acceleration of new cancer treatments and improvements in patient care

The debate followed Baroness Jowell's heartfelt appearance on Radio 4's Today programme on Wednesday this week.

In May 2017, Baroness Jowell was diagnosed with a glioblastoma, an aggressive high-grade brain tumour. Following her diagnosis, Jowell vowed to share her story to ensure that more people could live better lives with cancer.

Opening the very well attended debate in the House of Lords, Baroness Jowell said "today is not about politics, it's about patients".

The former Public Health Minister then talked of the need to share knowledge, data and research opportunities "at every level" to facilitate speedier progress, and reiterated her call for greater use of adaptive clinical trials which "can test many treatments at one time, speeding up progress."

During her speech, Baroness Jowell paid tribute to those affected by cancer.

"Patients support each other every single day, and create a community of love together. What gives a life meaning is not only how it is lived, but how it draws to a close. I hope this debate will give hope to other cancer patients"

The debate saw spoken contributions from over 20 members of the upper chamber, including the former Home Secretary David Blunkett.

Responding for the Government, Health Minister Lord James O'Shaughnessy paid tribute to Baroness Jowell and pledged to work with the brain tumour community to make progress on several key issues.

Crucially, the Minister said that he'd liaised with NHS England to discuss wider uptake of 5-ALA, an important surgical tool which aids the resection of high-grade brain tumours by illuminating malignant tissue. 5-ALA, also known as the Pink Drink, is only currently available in around half of all neurosurgical centres in the UK.

The Minister said "we've spoken to NHS England and they have committed to working with the Cancer Alliances and the brain cancer surgery centres to drive national uptake of its usage". We have campaigned on this issue for many years, and following this encouraging announcement, we will be monitoring developments closely.

Our CEO, Sarah Lindsell was at the House of Lords for the debate and said: "Tessa's courage and personal determination to help all those affected by brain tumours is remarkable and was on public display in the House of Lords today. Tessa was inspirational.

"We support Tessa's call for Government action to accelerate new cancer treatments, and we were pleased to see recognition of our work from several Lords during the debate.

I was encouraged by the Minister's offer to work with our community to tackle this devastating disease. A cure can't wait and this is only the beginning".