This year celebrated the 20th anniversary of the annual Britain Against Cancer Conference, which was hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer (APPGC). This year’s conference focused on living well with cancer, including access to the best treatments and support to meet the needs of patients. The conference also reflected on future priorities for improving cancer care and support, including the NHS Long Term Plan and an update against the current cancer strategy, which concludes in 2020.

Salena Mulhere was lucky enough to be awarded a bursary for attending the conference by Cancer52. Here is Salena’s report:

I felt really privileged to be asked to attend the Britain Against Cancer All Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer conference on behalf of KCSN. Despite the dearth of politicians after mid-morning due to Brexit, the charities, patients, clinicians and scientists present were still able to have a productive day sharing experiences, challenges and developments and learning more about some key work and campaigns going forward. It was very helpful to get an understanding of the inequalities that continue in relation to access to treatment and care and outcomes across the different cancer types in the UK, and the shared issues patients face.

The speaker stage, where a number of organisations were able to make a brief 10 minute presentation, was particularly good at sharing the key highlights of important issues that we need to continue to work with other charities and clinicians to address where we can, and lobby politicians to address if need be. The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) presented their report “From patent to patient” which gave a comprehensive overview of how many cancer drugs have been licensed over the last 16 years and how long that process takes. Only 10 new treatments were licensed for kidney cancer from 2010-2016; however, it was sobering to learn that for five other types of cancer there were no new drug treatments licensed at all! It was also enlightening to learn that it is taking longer to get drugs authorised: between 2000 and 2008 it took an average of 12.7 years to take a patented discovery through development, trials and licensing to final NICE approval. Between 2009-2016 this time increased to 14.1 years! Delays in getting drugs through clinical trials and licensed are a large part of the problem, and we need to continue doing all we can to influence and encourage faster and more effective clinical trial development, recruitment, execution and reporting, and to also continue our work in increasing patient knowledge of clinical trials.

The ICR research also found that the highly innovative drugs were less likely to receive NICE appraisal for use in the NHS than less innovative drugs (those that work in a similar way to those already available). Worryingly, a large number of drugs authorised as a result of clinical trials weren’t appraised by NICE at all. NHS patients are therefore missing out on innovative treatments completely, and the waiting time for access to drugs proven to be effective is literally years, which is just not acceptable.

Attending the conference reaffirmed my belief that patients and their charities and representatives such as KCSN need to be communicating at the highest level to keep informing the political decisions that continue to impact on the care and treatment available to them. It gave me even more insight into where some of the strategic challenges are, and highlighted some more evidence and allies for us to utilise in our ongoing mission of improving care and outcomes for kidney cancer patients.

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