Elliot Colburn MP, and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer, on why he supports Cancer Research UK’s work on a Manifesto for Cancer Research and Care – a blueprint which aims to help transform cancer care in this country.

Elliot Colburn headshot

David Woolfall, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I took over as Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer for many reasons, but none more so than this following, simple, yet incredibly distressing fact. In the UK, around half of us will be diagnosed with a form of Cancer in our lifetimes. Cancer is impossible to avoid, either we will get it or a loved one will. Every single person in our country has or will have a cancer story, and as we look to establishing our priorities for our nation’s health in a post-Covid world, there can be few considerations more important than the future of cancer research and care.

And so one of my proudest moments as MP for Sutton was learning that our borough will become home to the new London Cancer Hub.

Scientists, doctors and innovative companies will come together at a global centre for cancer innovation.

And at the heart of it all will be research. Delivering world-class cancer care that patients and their families can depend on for years to come.

But while the new London Cancer Hub will act as a beacon for the best in cancer care, the sobering statistics showing the prevalence of the disease in this country shine a light on the challenges we face.

By 2040 more than 500,000 people every year in the UK will be diagnosed with the disease – the future of cancer research and care has never been so important.

With research we can prevent new cancers, find better treatments and improve the patient experience. But we need reform and investment to match that ambition.

Of course, we must do all we can to prevent cancer emerging in the first place.

We all know how lifestyle factors can contribute to an increased likelihood of the disease, especially smoking, alcohol and obesity. Tackling these causes will reduce the risk of cancer, but also reduce the burden on our NHS.

Unfortunately, not all cancers will be preventable, so it’s vital we focus on ensuring we detect, diagnose and treat cancer at the earliest possible stage. We must meet the goal of diagnosing 75% of cancers at Stage 1 and Stage 2 by 2028.

However, none of this will be possible without the infrastructure to support it.

Since taking over as Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer, I have heard from many in the sector about its challenges, and the message has been heard loud and clear – workforce, workforce, workforce.

Without investment in our workforce, we simply won’t be able to meet the demands of the future.

The UK has much to be proud of when it comes to tackling this disease, but it still presents a health challenge on a scale I think we are yet to fully comprehend.

This is why Cancer Research UK’s Manifesto for Cancer Research and Care is so important. Over the next few months Cancer Research UK will be bringing together experts, researchers, policy makers, economists and cancer patients to work on some of the challenges I just referred to. This will help inform an actionable set of policies which will be published later this year.

Only by delivering on the areas of focus above, can we improve survival for all, and truly cement ourselves as the world leader in cancer research and care.

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