The UK Government Commits to Improving Brain Cancer Services in Memory of Tessa Jowell

The family of Tessa Jowell, a UK politician who recently passed away from a brain tumour, have commended the government for their commitment to improving diagnostic and treatment services for brain cancer. You can read the full story here, at The Guardian.

Tessa Jowell had a long political career in the UK parliament. She was first elected to Camden Council at the age of 25, and later became an MP for Dulwich and West Norwood in 1992. One year ago, she was in a taxi to the House of Lords to give a speech when she found herself unable to talk, and within two days she received a diagnosis of brain cancer.

She used her political experience and influence to fight for improvements to brain cancer diagnosis and treatment options. In one speech to the House of Lords, she made the case for adaptive trials. Adaptive trials involve regular reviews of how patients are progressing, and, based on this, make on-going modifications to factors such as dosage, the type of drug, sample size, patient selection criteria, and drug combinations. Ms Jowell argued that patients need to be able to switch treatments if their current medications are not working and that little-tested medicines, and their associated risks, are a more viable option for people whose disease is life-threatening.

Tessa Jowell passed away peacefully with her family after she suffered a brain haemorrhage. As part of her legacy, the UK government has pledged to fulfil some of her campaign aims, including doubling brain cancer funding and improving National Health Service (NHS) diagnostic tests. They also aim to speed-up the use of adaptive trials.

It is now £65 (~$88) million pledged to fund brain cancer research. In February a meeting between Tessa Jowell and the Prime Minister ended with a promise from the government to fund £20 million over five years as part of a £45 million research fund for brain cancer. Since then, the £20 million has been doubled to £40 million, bringing the total amount up to £65 million. Jeremy Hunt, the UK Health Secretary, said that there are often problems with attracting enough funding to carry out high-quality research into rare cancers. He said,

“What we’re announcing today will, we hope, catalyse more funding into research.”

The government has also committed to making a gold standard dye used to diagnose tumours widely available. This will be an improvement on the current situation; only about half of England’s brain cancer centres use the dye at the moment. Ms Jowell advocated for patient access to adaptive trials because they can test multiple treatments at the same time, making the process faster and more cost-effective. The government has agreed to speed up the use of these trials.

These government commitments are designed to improve diagnosis and treatments for the 11,400 people in the UK living with brain tumours, and the research done through the grants is also hoped to benefit patients living outside the UK.


Anna Hewitt

Anna Hewitt

Anna is from Cambridge, England and recently finished her undergraduate degree, where she specialised in Biological Anthropology. She has an interest in medicine and enjoys writing. In her spare time she likes to cook, hike, and hang out with cats.

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