Parliament and House of Lords discuss pancreatic cancer

In what has been an incredible week for awareness with TV, radio and newspapers discussing our GP research results and the new tissue bank funded by Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund, we have also seen pancreatic cancer discussed in Parliament and in the House of Lords.

On Tuesday 19th January, a debate secured by Pauline Latham MP, parliament discussed the removal of drugs from the Cancer Drugs Fund.  Ms Latham is calling for the Cancer Drugs Fund to work with drug manufacturers to reduce the prices and to have the drugs that were removed back onto the list.

It also became clear during the debate that Ms Latham was keen to support the reinstatement of Abraxane: “I have also campaigned for Abraxane to continue because, very sadly, a former Member of this House died from pancreatic cancer in the last Parliament. He had very few weeks to live once he was diagnosed, so it is a particularly unpleasant disease.”

Many of the MPs that attended the debate raised the issue of pancreatic cancer and the removal of Abraxane, the only drug for pancreatic cancer on the Cancer Drugs Fund, in November.  We have been calling for the reinstatement of Abraxane since September by starting up this government petition. Please sign today!

Here the Chair of the APPG on pancreatic cancer, MP Nic Dakin highlights why removing Abraxane is unfair and has created a ‘devastating postcode lottery’.

Impassioned pleas were made from other MPs too who agreed that pancreatic cancer was one of the most devastating diseases and limited survival was an issue that needed to be tackled urgently.

Nick Thomas-Symonds MP said: “Another example of a drug that has been delisted, causing similar frustration, is Abraxane, which is used in the treatment of advanced pancreatic cancer and was removed from the Cancer Drugs Fund in November. First, does she share my concern that although the delisting applies only to England, it causes worries across the rest of the UK as to whether the drug will become unavailable there, too?”

We are concerned too that while Abraxane is currently available in Wales and Scotland, there is a chance that the decision by NHS England puts the availability elsewhere at risk.

Also raising concerns about Abraxane were Jim Shannon MP, Jo Churchill MP, Oliver Heald MP, and Margaret Ritchie MP.

Among his closing statement, George Freeman, said:  “I am actively looking at ways to integrate better the Department of Health negotiators with NHS England commissioners through the accelerated access programme, so that we can get the benefit of time, cost and risk reductions in the pathway in more enterprising pricing mechanisms. I am confident that there is interesting progress to be made in that space.”

House of Lords

On Wednesday 20th January, following on from the debate in parliament, the House of Lords spoke about the issues discuss cancer survival during a debate secured by Baroness Walmsley. We were pleased to see peers highlight the poor survival rates faced by pancreatic cancer patients.

The Vice-Chair of the APPG on Pancreatic Cancer, Lord Aberdare, raised the issues of pancreatic cancer poor survival rates and the the very poor amount of funds invested into research.

Baroness Walmsley also highlighted the need for or action to improve pancreatic cancer survival rates.

In addressing the issue of improving survival rates of cancer in general , she said: “So what needs to change? We need to invest in prevention through information and help for people to reduce their risk and earlier, more accurate diagnosis. We need better training and resources to enable GPs to refer quickly and a realistic approach to consultant utilisation and shortages, along with that of specialist nurses. We need better data collection and transparency and earlier access to innovative treatments.”

We’d like to thank all the MPs and members of the House of Lords for raising the importance of early diagnosis, increased research funding and better awareness of pancreatic cancer symptoms, to improve survival rates of pancreatic cancer.

To get involved in campaigning, please visit: https://pancreaticcanceraction.org/support-us/raise-awareness/campaign-with-us/

All in all, with the pancreatic cancer being discussed at length in parliament and the house of lords, and the awareness in the first few weeks of January, it has been a great start to 2016.