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Petition Increase dedicated funding for childhood cancer research

The Government & Parliament must ensure more research funding in the UK is dedicated to childhood cancer research, which currently makes up only 2-3% of cancer research funding in the UK. We need investment into new treatments, to replace outdated & harmful drugs that have not changed in decades.

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I do not want other mums to have to suffer the most horrendous cancer journey like I have. No mother should have to witness their child enduring the most horrific pain caused by cancer, or to witness the debilitating after-effects of outdated and harmful treatments. My beautiful daughter, Sophie, at just 10 years of age, was taken from us on 18th September 2021 by this horrid disease. We must provide more funding to find new drugs and a cure for childhood cancers.

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Government responded

This response was given on 12 October 2021

Research is crucial to tackling childhood and other cancers. NIHR cancer research spending increased from £101 million in 2010/11 to £138 million in 2019/20, the largest investment in a disease area.

Being diagnosed with cancer is devastating for anyone, especially for children and their families.

There has been a lot of progress in the treatment of childhood cancers over the last forty years, with the majority of children now surviving cancer. Sadly, this is not yet the case for certain childhood cancers such as brain cancer, neuroblastoma, and rhabdomyosarcoma.

More research is crucial. This is why DHSC spends £1bn per year in health research through the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). NIHR cancer research spending has risen from £101 million in 2010/11 to £138 million in 2019/20, the largest investment in a disease area.

In May 2018 the Government announced £40 million over five years for brain tumour research as part of the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission. This includes funding for childhood cancers.

Funding is invested through the NIHR to support a wide range of research from early translational and experimental medicine research, through clinical, and onto applied health and care research. In essence this will support the translation of laboratory discoveries into treatments and better care for patients, including children.

We are working closely with partners via the Tessa Jowell Brain Cancer Mission. The Mission has made truly excellent progress since it was established in 2018. Through the Mission, we have held customised workshops to support the research community in submitting more fundable research applications to the NIHR. We will also be providing funding for the research training elements of the Tessa Jowell Fellowships to train specialist brain tumour oncologists, and thus helping to grow the research community.

The following are specific examples of research that the NIHR is funding into childhood cancers:

Tessa Jowell BRAIN MATRIX. This is an exciting new trials platform that will give people with brain cancer, including children, access to trials of treatments that are best suited to their individual tumours.

Biomede. The NIHR Clinical Research Network supported the recruitment of children with Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG) to the Biological Medicine for DIPG Eradication, otherwise known as Biomede. Biomede is an international, multi-centred, and adaptive phase II trial of treatment for DIPG.

NIHR Great Ormond Street Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) is researching the use of imaging to assess the efficacy of induction chemotherapy for high-risk neuroblastoma.

Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres (ECMCs). The early-phase studies supported by ECMC Paediatric Network that the NIHR funds in partnership with Cancer Research UK and Scotland.

NIHR Newcastle Biomedical Research Centre is studying the genetic profiles of high-risk neuroblastomas to provide predictive and prognostic biomarkers for current and future targeted therapies

NIHR Royal Marsden Biomedical Research Centre.
Developing preclinical models of neuroblastoma and childhood soft tissue sarcoma cells for the development of target-driven drug treatment.
Early Phase Research into childhood cancers - the Centre is undertaking world-leading research for children with cancer. It developed a 91 gene panel that detects certain genomic mutations in childhood tumours.
Undertaking fundamental research on DIPG. This childhood brain tumour is comprised of multiple generations of different types of cancer cells, which makes it so difficult to treat.

Cancer trials and studies. The NIHR Clinical Research Network has over 800 cancer trials and studies recruiting or in set-up, including studies for children with cancer. Through the Network, the proportion of patients entering cancer clinical trials and studies is more than double that in any other country for which data exists, including the United States

Children and young people in research. The NIHR is committed to engaging children and young people to participate in research, supporting researchers and funders, as well as empowering children and young people to lead their own journey with research.

Headsmart is raising national awareness of the common signs and symptoms of brain tumours in children and teenagers. The NIHR is funding a Research Fellowship entitled ‘Childhood cancer diagnosis: quantifying national diagnostic intervals and developing professional and public decision support tools for earlier diagnosis’.

The NIHR welcomes funding applications for research into any aspect of human health, including childhood cancers. To encourage such proposals, we released a public announcement to the research community making clear our desire to receive brain tumour research funding applications. This has led to an increase in proposals, many of which have been funded. We continue to encourage further applications.

The Department continues to work closely with research funding partners, such as Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council and brain tumour charities, which fund research into new scientific discoveries.

Department of Health and Social Care

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Other parliamentary business

MPs hold inquiry into cancer services in England

The House of Commons Health and Social Care Committee is holding an inquiry into why cancer outcomes in England continue to lag behind comparable countries internationally. The Committee is examining evidence relating to the underlying causes of these differences.

The Committee is also considering what impact disruption to cancer services during the covid-19 pandemic have had on efforts to catch up, and whether the ambitions set out in the NHS Long Term Plan will help close the gap with the best performing countries worldwide.

Read about the inquiry here: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1377/cancer-services/news/156443/mps-seek-evidence-on-why-england-lags-behind-in-cancer-survival/

You can find future announcements about the inquiry here: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1377/cancer-services/

The submission period for written evidence for this inquiry has now passed, but you can view submitted written evidence here: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/1377/cancer-services/publications/

We’re letting you know about this inquiry because you signed a petition calling on the Government to increase dedicated funding for childhood cancer research, and we thought this inquiry may be of interest to you.

What is the Health and Social Care Committee?

The Health and Social Care Committee scrutinises the work of the Department of Health and Social Care and its associated public bodies. It examines government policy, spending and administration on behalf of the electorate and the House of Commons. It's a cross-party committee and is independent of the Government.

Find out more on their website: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/81/health-and-social-care-committee/

You can get updates on their work by following the Committee on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/CommonsHealth

This is a ‘select committee’. Find out how Select Committees work:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_2RDuDs44c

You can also sign up to the UK Parliament newsletter for the latest information on how to get involved and make a difference: https://learning.parliament.uk/en/your-uk-parliament-newsletter-sign-up-form/

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