Former Labour minister opens up about being diagnosed with brain cancer

Baroness Tessa Jowell today led a debate in parliament to propose ‘innovative cancer treatments’ being available on the NHS. She advocated a culture of knowledge sharing “at every level” in cancer research and universal availability of breakthrough treatments. The former labour minister was diagnosed with high grade glioblastoma in 2017.

There exist few cancers with so poor a prognosis as glioblastoma. Despite aggressive surgical, chemotherapeutic and irradiation treatment, the median survival is 15 months from the point of diagnosis. This is, in part, because of the location of the tumour as large surgical margins are not possible. Additionally, the high genetic heterogeneity expressed by each individual tumour makes GBM difficult to categorise, and, further to this, makes targeted treatment challenging even on an individual basis. Currently, tumour vaccines are being developed to harness the power of the immune system in the fight against GBM, but clinical trials of this therapy, and indeed all others, are yet to show any great promise. The take-home message from research into GBM is that this devastating cancer has a multi-faceted, complex defence system against gene therapies; perhaps looking away from the cell proper and at its surrounding milieu will pave the way for novel therapeutic targets that do not rely on specific mutations, such as those in the field of immune therapy.

You can read more about the latest developments in glioblastoma research here:

You can hear her talking to the Today programme here:

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