Cancer Treatment (Children)

Thank you for getting in touch with me.

I was very sad to hear Denny's story, and his family and friends are in my thoughts at what must be an extremely difficult time for them. I know that CAR-T therapy is highly complex and potentially risky treatment, but has been shown to have some success in some types of cancer. It is vital that treatments approved for use on the NHS are thoroughly tested and considered safe and effective before they are used. I know that, outside that, many seek to take part in trials, or experimental treatment, which may have been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Until a treatment regime has been approved, it cannot be recommended on the NHS.

Childhood cancers is thankfully extremely rare, accounting for 0.5 per cent of all cancers in the UK, with around one child in every 500 developing some form of cancer by the age of 14 years. Of course, even one case is very sad, and my deepest sympathies go out to every family dealing with such a challenging situation. Improving cancer outcomes, including for children, is a major priority for the Government.  I am incredibly supportive of the £1.2 billion investment which the Government put into the Cancer Drugs Fund which helped 95,000 people, including children, to access the latest and most innovative cancer drugs.

In 2012 the Government announced a £250 million investment to build proton beam therapy (PBT) facilities at the Christie Hospital and at University College London Hospitals (UCLH). The Christie Hospital is already treating patients, and UCLH is due to open this year. PBT is a more directed form of radiation therapy, which means that higher doses can be delivered with fewer side effects and fewer long term consequences, which is particularly important for paediatric patients.

In October 2018 the Prime Minister announced measures that will be rolled out across the country with the aim of seeing three quarters of all cancers detected at an early stage by 2028 (currently just over half are detected at an early stage).  The plan will overhaul screening programmes, provide new investment in state of the art technology to transform the process of diagnosis, and boost research and innovation. This is part of the NHS Long Term Plan, published in January 2019, and forms part of how the Government will achieve its ambition to see 55,000 more people surviving cancer for five years in England each year from 2028.

I will continue to monitor this issue closely, and thank you again for taking the time to contact me.