The overwhelming message today in the House of Commons was one of hope as a backbench business debate paid tribute to Baroness Tessa Jowell, and all she has done to drive the cause of brain tumours and cancer forward since her diagnosis.
It was about so much more than brain tumours though, as it paid tribute to an extraordinary Parliamentarian, social justice campaigner and a warm, compassionate and engaging person who has achieved so much.
During the debate MPs spoke of the incredible things that she had achieved in her life.
Sarah Jones MP, a former colleague and friend of Baroness Jowell, opened the debate by saying “to say Tessa is determined in the face of adversity is an understatement” as she described her efforts to bring the Olympic Games to London in 2012. She continued “now she has a new cause” when referring to her fight for better treatments for brain tumour patients.
Rt Hon. Jeremy Hunt MP, Secretary of State for Health & Social Care, intervened during the debate to pay his own tributes to her saying “Most people come to this house to leave a legacy. She has left two. The Olympics and cancer treatment.” He followed on by saying that Government has a duty to act on what Tessa is saying.
The debate also covered two important issues that Baroness Jowell has been campaigning on since her diagnosis, data and adaptive clinical trials.
Speaking on the issue of data Peter Kyle MP said “the samples we have could revolutionise care and research”. As he shared the moving story of his own mother’s journey with lung cancer.
Then moving on to adaptive clinical trials and new treatments for cancer patients James Brokenshire MP said “we should be prepared to be more radical”.
There were also lots of stories of late diagnosis from MPs, whose families have been affected by cancer, and many spoke of the importance to improve diagnosis wherever possible. Many also commended the work of HeadSmart, as constituents had used it to help diagnosis their loved one and chosen to share their story.
It was an emotional debate, with many friends of Baroness Jowell appreciative to be given the chance to pay tribute to this remarkable lady in such a public and meaningful way. George Freeman MP, a former life sciences minister highlighted the importance of this not being solely about words, but actions by saying “we want to turn these words into actions”.
Closing the debate, Health Minister, Steve Brine MP said “we will do everything posssibe” to help drive this cause forwards, and specifically drew out examples of data and adaptive clinical trials that are so vital in the mission to defeat brain tumours.
Baroness Jowell herself had earlier said:
“I am just so grateful to be able to use my voice every day to advocate on behalf of cancer patients across the UK and to witness the incredible cross-party support that has been pledged.
“In my meetings I will be pressing home the urgency of ensuring swift access to adaptive trials for brain tumour patients as well as promoting the benefits of building a global database of patient information to improve research and patient care.”
“I know that the Government will be listening carefully to the arguments I and Members of Parliament will be making and I commend the action already taken to help extend survival rates for cancer patients.
“Finally, I remain incredibly moved by the continued love I receive from my family, friends and the wider community of those whose lives have been touched by cancer. I will keep going with all my strength to ensure we create change together.”
Cameron Miller, Head of Policy and Public Affairs at The Brain Tumour Charity concludes:
“Brain tumours has a unique momentum behind it currently, and what this debate demonstrated was that together we will defeat this disease. Baroness Tessa Jowell has an ability to bring people together for a common goal, and she has shown that leadership again in her fight for better treatment and care for brain tumour patients.”
We need your help to make Tessa Jowell’s wishes a reality, honouring this remarkable campaigner who has done so much to defeat brain tumours.
Please donate today and help us meet her promise of more people living longer, better lives with cancer.