Henry Smith MP calls on Prime Minister to Make Blood Cancer Visible

Crawley MP and All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Blood Cancer Chair Henry Smith has backed a campaign to raise awareness of blood cancer and put it at the forefront of the Government’s cancer plans, including highlighting the issue during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.

Henry said;

“Over the last few days I’ve hosted the blood cancer research charity Bloodwise in Parliament and welcomed MPs to meet with the organisation, and find out more about the UK’s fifth most common cancer – alarmingly this country’s third biggest cancer killer.

“In spite of this, awareness of blood cancers among the general public and policy-makers is low. It was really insightful to hear from people directly affected by blood cancers and to understand more about how care can be improved.

“I’ve also chaired the latest meeting of the Blood Cancer APPG, where representatives from the Royal College of Pathologists, Leukaemia Care and Myeloma UK spoke about the importance of early diagnosis for patients.

“I welcome NHS England’s announcement this week that new CAR-T therapy, which uses the immune system to kill cancer cells, will be made available to children and young people with a form of leukaemia.

“In June of this year I was delighted to chair a panel of the Cancer APPG on CAR-T therapy. We were joined by colleagues from Anthony Nolan, Macmillan Cancer Support, Bloodwise, University College London, the NHS and the Blood Cancer APPG. While this week’s developments are welcome we’ll continue to campaign for further support for patients.

“Raising awareness is vital, so to have the opportunity to highlight support for blood cancer patients at Prime Minister’s Questions this week was extremely important in keeping this issue on the Government’s agenda.”

September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, with organisations including Bloodwise supporting the Make Blood Cancer Visible campaign. Blood cancers are the fifth most common type of cancer in the UK and the third biggest cause of cancer death in this country. Over 40,000 people are diagnosed with a blood cancer or related blood disorder each year in Britain.

On Wednesday, 5th September, Henry questioned the Prime Minister about the announcement made by NHS England just hours earlier, where it was confirmed that children and young people with a form of leukaemia are set to become the first in Europe to receive CAR-T therapy.

CAR-T therapy is a new type of therapy that uses the immune system to kill cancer cells. It could offer people with certain hard-to-treat blood cancers the chance for long-term survival, or even a cure.

On the same day, the Crawley MP was the first participant on Bloodwise’s Twitter Takeover, where blood cancer patients, ambassadors and advocates post on the charity’s social media feed to tell their own stories of blood cancer support and what can be done to provide greater assistance.

Earlier in the week (Tuesday, 4th September), Henry hosted an event organised by Bloodwise in Westminster Hall. He heard about the issues that face people with blood cancers like leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma and spoke to patients about their experiences.

Later that day, the Crawley MP chaired the latest meeting of the Blood Cancer APPG, which he set up in 2016 and has chaired since its formation. The Group published its inaugural report – ‘The ‘Hidden’ Cancer: The Need to Improve Blood Cancer Care’ – in January of this year.

Among its recommendations were that GPs should immediately request a blood test for anyone presenting with one or more symptoms of blood cancer. These include general fatigue, night sweats, weight loss, or bruising, all of which can be mistaken for other, less serious conditions such as being run down or flu.

Gemma Peters, Chief Executive of Bloodwise, commented;

“We are delighted that Henry Smith MP is supporting our campaign to raise awareness of blood cancer.

“As one in 19 are affected by blood cancer it is vital that blood cancer is central to the Government’s cancer plans going forward.”

Henry Smith, Member of Parliament for Crawley, asked the Prime Minister;

“This September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, and I am therefore delighted that it was announced yesterday that the NHS will provide innovative CAR-T cell immune therapy to under-25s—the first health system in Europe to do so.

“I seek assurances from my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister that a focus on blood cancer awareness, diagnosis and prevention will continue into the future.”

The Prime Minister, Rt Hon Theresa May MP, responded;

“I commend my hon. Friend for the work that he has done to champion the cause of blood cancer and raise a much greater awareness of the issue.

“I can assure him that we will continue to press on and raise awareness of the issue, and I, too, am pleased that the decision that was announced yesterday was able to be made.

“I congratulate him, because he has personally campaigned on this and championed this cause.”