West Cornwall MP Derek Thomas has introduced a landmark debate on brain tumours in the House of Commons.

The purpose of the debate was to demand a greater emphasis on brain tumours, making this form of cancer a critical priority for the government.  

Many of the MPs who spoke drew on “Pathway to a Cure”, a report published last week by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Brain Tumours, which Mr Thomas chairs.

Mr Thomas began by paying tribute to the families he had met who have been hit by the “juggernaut” of a brain cancer diagnosis, before setting out what the APPG for brain tumours had discovered:

“From our work, we know that researchers find it challenging to access government funding, because the system is built in silos,” he said.

“National Institute for Health and Care Research processes act as a disincentive to researchers who can apply their expertise and intellect more easily elsewhere in the medical research field.

“We also found that there are a limited number of clinical trials available for brain tumour patients, and that the national trials database is not reliable.

“We found that pharmaceutical companies are choosing not to pursue the development of brain cancer drugs in the UK, and that funding is not ringfenced—specifically for research into childhood brain tumours, where survival rates for the most aggressive tumours have remained unchanged for decades.”

The report’s recommendations were for positive and proactive engagement with the research community, and funding for the whole research pathway, from laboratory work to clinical trials.

Mr Thomas concluded: “This government want the UK to be considered a science and technology superpower. The UK must start setting the pace for recovery rather than fall further behind. Business as usual threatens the UK’s ability to lead clinical trials for brain tumours. Brain tumour research must be seen as a critical priority.”

In closing the debate, the Minister for Health and Secondary Care Will Quince paid tribute to Mr Thomas’ work, and invited him and the APPG to a formal meeting to consider their report in more detail.

Other speakers in the debate included the Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh, who spoke through tears about her sister Margaret’s diagnosis and treatment, and MPs from all sides who raised moving testimony of families in their constituency.

Many speakers reinforced the findings of the APPG’s report – former shadow chancellor John McDonnell said that “as a result of the APPG’s diligent commitment, we have in front of us an extremely professional report that the Government now can use as the guide and agenda for their work.”

Mr Thomas added” “Parliament can be a toxic place, but there are debates where the whole house comes together.

“This debate was one of these occasions.  I was deeply moved by speeches from MPs from both sides of the house.

“But the most important result of the debate is that the Minister will be meeting with the All-Party Parliamentary Group to discuss our report.

“In the debate, he acknowledged the problems and issues that we raised; the next stage is to consider our detailed recommendations for the future.”