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Brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer

Bye bye BEIS – now SIT

by Hugh Adams

    For many months we have been writing in these updates about the roles of the Government, Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Minister within that department, George Freeman MP, who is an advocate for improving the options for brain tumours patients and the role of the life sciences in taking this agenda forward. (Minister aims to put UK at forefront of brain tumour fight)  

    Now BEIS is being broken down with the Prime Minister creating four new departments. These will include the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology which will focus on positioning the UK at the forefront of global scientific and technological advancement. A statement from the Government continues that the new department “will build on our strong foundations of world-class research, a thriving technology scene and global networks of collaboration to create a golden thread from outstanding basic science to innovations that change lives and sustain economic growth.”

    The new Secretary of State for this department will be Michelle Donelan and we are pleased to see that George Freeman is retaining his ministerial position. He consistently paints an optimistic picture on his Twitter account when writing about Life Sciences and future plans and ambitions and he is certainly going to be one of the first recipients of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Brain Tumours forthcoming report – ‘Pathway to a Cure – Breaking Down the Barriers’.

    However at the same time as this new department was being created Sir Pascal Soriot, chief executive of AstraZeneca commented that ministers’ ambitions to make the UK “a life sciences superpower” are in danger of falling flat. Dame Emma Walmsley, Soriot’s counterpart at GlaxoSmithKline, last week also warned of “a tipping point” for UK life sciences. 

    In November last year we shared  a report that sheds light on the state of UK industry clinical trials and Soriot highlighted AstraZeneca's recent decision to build a manufacturing facility in Ireland instead of the UK as evidence of Britain becoming less attractive for drugmakers and noted that clinical trials were getting delayed as the NHS is overwhelmed. "It’s also a question of can we execute our clinical trials, do we want to invest and are we going to get the appropriate returns?” he said.

    Dr Karen Noble, our Director of Research, Policy and Innovation offered further comment saying; “It is disappointing to read that AstraZeneca will no longer make a new investment in the UK. It is so important that this country is seen to be an attractive environment for research and development, the government needs to deliver on its ambition for the UK to be a life sciences superpower. However, whatever the research landscape is in the UK we will continue to campaign for an increase in the national investment in brain tumour research because brain tumour patients and their families deserve better.”

    This week Brain Tumour Research joined more than 60 cancer charities in launching a  petition calling for action to improve outcomes for people affected by cancer.

    It comes after the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Steve Barclay last week announced that the 10-Year Cancer Plan would be scrapped, along with separate plans for mental health and dementia treatments. It will be replaced by a  Major Conditions Strategy and will combine efforts on various diseases, with no special emphasis placed on cancer.

    In response, One Cancer Voice – a collaborative group of more than 60 cancer charities – has launched a petition calling for the Prime Minister to commit to taking action to dramatically improve the experience and outcomes for people affected by cancer and to deliver world-class cancer services, as promised. The petition urges the PM to ensure that the cancer content within the Major Conditions Strategy is ambitious, fully funded and incorporates the evidence already provided by the cancer community.

    In discussions with its colleagues at One Cancer Voice, Brain Tumour Research has raised concerns that the new combined strategy will be far less focused on research. Innovation and adequately funded discovery science is essential in finding a pathway to a cure for brain tumours. Research into brain tumours must not be left behind.

    Sue Farrington Smith MBE, our Chief Executive, said: “We are disappointed that the Government has chosen to combine cancer in a Major Conditions Strategy and concerned that cancer-specific plans will be watered down. We are now calling on the Government to commit to a longer-term strategy for cancer, focusing on transforming cancer research, diagnosis, treatment and patient experience, and improve outcomes for brain tumour patients and for all cancer patients.”

    It's really important that you sign the petition: Please also make sure that you share it on your social media platforms to support the campaign.

    This week’s Cancer52 meeting similarly reflected on the Government’s decision to ditch the 10-Year Cancer Plan. We also reviewed our March joint-submission for the 10-Year Cancer Plan Call for Evidence. Essentially, many of our asks made then remain valid.

    • We are calling on the Government to establish a Rare and Less Common Cancer Taskforce, through NHS England, to continue to provide a focus for Rare and Less Common Cancers throughout the lifetime of the Cancer Plan.
    • By 2032, there needs to be a reduction in incidence of rare and less common cancer.
    • Data collection is timely, accessible, standardised and comprehensive and is analysed and published swiftly to support the delivery and monitoring of all aspects of cancer across the pathway and cancer research.

    Also, this week, we joined a call with Dr Niranjanan Nirmalananthan, the National Clinical Director (NCD) for Neurology. He gave a Neuroscience Services Transformation Stakeholder update outlining his priorities as NCD. He spoke of regional inequalities in care and his desire to address some workforce issues through working with other stakeholders and providing recruitment solutions through networking. He added that current constraints, shouldn’t be a reason for not pushing for more funding in vital areas.

    The Monthly Cancer Charity Call, facilitated by Macmillan, gave the floor to Move Against Cancer. The charity encourages cancer patients to participate in physical activity, with the National Cancer Survivorship Initiative stating that there is: ‘Persuasive evidence that a healthy lifestyle during and after cancer is associated with improved physical and psychological well-being.'

    Move Against Cancer runs a free 8-week online building foundations programme for 13–30-year-olds living with and beyond cancer. Above all, the aims are to reduce the short-term and long-term effects of treatment, improve function and overall quality of life and improve mental wellbeing. To find out more, click here.

    There won’t be an update for the next fortnight as we prepare for the beginning of Brain Tumour Awareness Month which is going to be huge this year. We are so grateful to all of you for joining us in supporting that month, in supporting our cause and in supporting Brain Tumour Research. We couldn’t be who we are or do what we do without you.

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