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Parliamentary debate on blood cancer and Cancer Drugs Fund

The Bloodwise logo. Bloodwise appears in black text against a white background
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13 Jul 2016

Raising the issues faced by blood cancer patients

We're delighted to report that last week, MPs debated blood cancers and access to new medicines in Parliament's Westminster Hall. Jim Shannon, MP for Strangford, opened the debate which outlined key issues in this area:

“The fact that more people are surviving and living longer [with cancer] is to be celebrated, but unfortunately not everyone is living well, which is what this debate is about.

"That is especially true for people with blood cancers, many of whom will live with the disease and the consequences of its treatment for many years. Some of them are fortunate to do so, but for many that will be time limited. 

Patients with blood cancers can face significant problems in accessing vital treatment because of the difficulties and complexities of appraising medicines in this area.”

Building a cross-party consensus

Jim Shannon MP's speech was followed by contributions from many MPs across the political spectrum and from different parts of the country. We were pleased to see so many mentions of the issues that affect blood cancer patients on a daily basis – the problems of 'watch and wait', the emotional strain of having treatments made unavailable on the NHS and the toxicity of treatments, and the difficulties of assessing drugs for small patient populations, as is the case for some blood cancers.  

Henry Smith MP for Crawley and chair of the newly formed All-Party Parliamentary Group on Blood Cancer highlighted the importance of early diagnosis and awareness of blood cancer:

“The importance of early diagnosis cannot be overestimated: not least because, by 2020, almost half the UK population will receive a cancer diagnosis during their lifetime. Although I am sure that everyone in this place is aware, it may come as a surprise to those who are not so familiar with the issue that blood cancer is the third biggest cancer killer and is made up of more than 130 different diseases, including leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma.”

Putting blood cancer on the agenda

The debate received a Government response from the Life Sciences Minister, George Freeman MP, who paid tribute to the work of many charities working this area, with particular mention of our Trials Acceleration Programme

“ …I pay tribute to Bloodwise and other charities that work in the blood cancer space. Charities are playing an increasingly important role in the sector; the Association of Medical Research Charities recently released figures that show that our charities now invest more than £1.4 billion a year in medical research.

 …I make particular mention of the work of Professor Charlie Craddock, director of the blood and marrow transplant unit at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, who leads the Trials Acceleration Programme, funded by Bloodwise and supported through the National Institute for Health Research's experimental cancer medicine centre funding and its clinical research network.”

It was particularly important to see the cross party consensus on the issues affecting blood cancer patients. We'll continue to be closely engaged in this agenda and build the momentum behind the All-Party Parliamentary Group on blood cancer.

Find out more about the debate

The full transcript of the two hour debate is now available to read online.

You can also read an article about the debate by Henry Smith MP in the Crawley Observer.

If you'd like to know more about Bloodwise policy and public affairs work, or the All Party Group on Blood Cancer please contact policy@bloodwise.org.uk