During brain tumour awareness month, Derek has campaigned for the funding of brain tumour research to be improved.
At the beginning of the month, he launched a report which showed how the system for funding research is broken.
Last week, he led a debate in the Commons about research into brain tumours.
And in Prime Minister's Questions this week, he got a commitment from Rishi Sunak to unblock the barriers to funding research.
The purpose of last week's debate was to demand a greater emphasis on brain tumours, making this form of cancer a critical priority for the Government. Many of the MPs who spoke drew on “Pathway to a Cure”, the report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Brain Tumours (which Derek chairs), published last week.
Derek began by paying tribute to the families he had met who have been hit by the “juggernaut” of a brain cancer diagnosis, before setting out his recommendations for the Government:
- Research funding should cover the whole of the “research pipeline”, including discovery, translation and clinical research. There have been huge advances in the laboratory (discovery) that have not been developed into clinical treatment (translation)
- The Medical Research Council should prioritise multidisciplinary research into brain tumours, making the brain-blood barrier a strategic priority. (The brain-blood barrier protects the brain from toxins in the blood, but also blocks out most cancer drugs.)
- The Government should support translational research – it currently takes fifteen years for a treatment to move from pre-clinical research to treatment. This needs more funding and more research expertise in this area.
- Patients with brain tumours should have more access to research and clinical trials.
- The review panels which award funding should have more brain tumour specialists who understand of the unique nature of brain tumour research, and researchers need more support navigating the funding system
- Funding for research into brain tumours should be ringfenced, to prevent researchers moving away to diseases where funding is more readily available
- The Government should commit to a package for every child in recovery from a brain tumour, implemented by an occupational therapist, to cover their development
- The Government should appoint a brain tumour champion to co-ordinate funding and implementation of a strategy between the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.
“This Government want the UK to be considered a science and technology superpower. The UK must start setting the pace for recovery rather than fall further behind. Business as usual threatens the UK’s ability to lead clinical trials for brain tumours. Brain tumour research must be seen as a critical priority.”
Other speakers in the debate included the Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, who spoke through tears about her sister Margaret’s diagnosis and treatment, and MPs from all sides who raised moving testimony of families in their constituency.
Many speakers reinforced the findings of the APPG’s report – former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said that “as a result of the APPG’s diligent commitment, we have in front of us an extremely professional report that the Government now can use as the guide and agenda for their work.”
In closing the debate, the Minister for Health and Secondary Care, Will Quince, paid tribute to Derek’s work, and invited Derek and the APPG to a formal meeting to consider their recommendations.
“Parliament can be a toxic place, but there are debates where the whole house comes together.
“Yesterday’s debate was one of these occasions. I was deeply moved by speeches from MPs from both sides of the house.
“But the most important result of the debate is that the Minister will be meeting with the All-Party Parliamentary Group to discuss our report.
“In the debate, he acknowledged the problems and issues that we raised; the next stage is to consider the detailed recommendations for the future.”
The full speech is below: