Childhood Cancers: Research — [David Mundell in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:08 pm on 7th December 2020.

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Photo of Grahame Morris Grahame Morris Labour, Easington 5:08 pm, 7th December 2020

Thank you for calling me, Mr Mundell. I thank my hon. Friend Tonia Antoniazzi not only for securing this important debate on childhood cancer, but for all the excellent work that she does as chair of the all-party parliamentary group on cancer. I also thank the petitioners who promoted this debate today.

I want to talk about the work of the Bradley Lowery Foundation, which is based in my constituency, and I want to concentrate on the need, as other hon. Members have, for Government collaboration with smaller charities and research and funding into less common cancers. The Bradley Lowery Foundation was established in August 2017 after my constituent, six-year-old Bradley Lowery, lost his fight for life to stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of childhood cancer.

In 2013, Bradley’s mother, Gemma, started a fundraising campaign to raise funds so that Bradley could get treatment in the United States—treatment that was not available here in the UK. The foundation—one of its patrons is the former Sunderland and England footballer, Jermain Defoe—supports research on neuroblastoma and other childhood cancers, is developing plans to support a £600,000 holiday home in Scarborough, and runs a support line for families of children with cancer in the north-east. The Bradley Lowery Foundation has given £200,000 to neuroblastoma research and has just pledged another £15,000 to sarcoma research. It collaborates with other research charities to ensure that more funding can be put into the right places.

We have heard from my hon. Friend Chris Evans and others about the prognosis for patients who have brain stem cancer, particularly children. The prognosis is really quite dark. I point out to the Minister, for whom I have the highest regard, that the Bradley Lowery Foundation wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer around June of this year and is still awaiting a response. In the letter, the foundation expressed its willingness to set up a meeting with the Chancellor regarding funding for childhood cancer research, and it was seeking to secure some support through matched funding from Government.

The charity finds that although the most common incurable cancers rightly receive a lot of funding, the rarer and harder-to-treat cancers get little funding. The funding that they receive is from smaller charities and organisations that, like the Bradley Lowery Foundation, might have been set up as a legacy for families who have lost children to a particularly rare cancer. I urge the Minister to speak to the smaller charities. I am sure she does so on a regular basis, but will she speak to the smaller charities and organisations that fund this vital research, such as the Bradley Lowery Foundation? After all, it is the smaller charities that fund the harder-to-treat cancers.

If the covid-19 pandemic has proven anything, it is that, with the will and the right funding and resources, treatment and vaccines can be developed. If the Government can pledge even a fraction of the funding that has been allocated for covid towards childhood cancer research, we could no doubt find better, safer treatments a lot faster.