The combined five-year survival rate for people with either liver, brain, lung, oesophageal, pancreatic or stomach cancers stands is currently just 14%. Today, six charities representing these diseases have come together urge the government to adopt a target of doubling the survival rate to 28% by 2029 as part of the renewed NHS 10-year strategy.
Annually, 90,000 people are diagnosed with one of the less survivable cancers. If the five-year survival rate is doubled to 28% by 2029, an extra 12,500 people a year would go on to live a longer life after diagnosis.
Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Policy and Communications at the British Liver Trust said: “It is very concerning that someone diagnosed with one of these six cancers – pancreatic, liver, brain, lung, oesophageal and stomach – has, on average, just a 14% chance of living beyond five years after their cancer is detected. Now is the time to take action to transform the future for patients with these cancers and their families. We must look to the breast cancer and prostate cancer movements, and emulate their incredible successes in increasing research funding, and improving diagnosis and treatment.”
The charity coalition, the Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce (LSCT), which the British LIver Trust are part of, believes this target is achievable but only if government and NHS England agree to work together with them. A new NHS plan with updated objectives for cancer is currently being prepared for integration with the existing Cancer Strategy in England – the LSCT is asking for their target to be included too.
Since 1971, survival rates for the six most survivable cancers improved by 87% due to a huge degree of public awareness, funding, research breakthroughs and treatment improvements. The LSCT wants to set the less survivable cancers on the same path.
This path to success includes prioritising research for these less survivable cancers, making sure NHS England’s Cancer Dashboard is extended to include data for the less survivable cancers (right now it only offers specific data for breast, colorectal, lung and prostate cancer). The charity alliance also wants to see the Cancer Dashboard publish data on the five-year survival rates. This sort of data is critical to identify variations in survival rates, discover what leads to better outcomes and ensure the best care is delivered across England to improve survival outcomes overall. Publishing and tracking the data will support and encourage initiatives such as:
• Speeding up paths to treatment, which is vital for the less survivable cancers as some are very aggressive
• Removing barriers to clinical trials
• Increasing investment in research into these diseases, which currently lags behind investment for other cancers.
The six charities that make up the LSCT are: Action Against Heartburn, The Brain Tumour Charity, The British Liver Trust, Guts UK, Pancreatic Cancer UK and the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.
Anna Jewell, Chair of the Less Survivable Cancer Taskforce said:
“Decades of neglect and underfunding have left the survival rates of brain, liver, lung, oesophageal, pancreatic and stomach cancers unacceptably low. Everyone one with cancer deserves a fair chance of survival and we know that what gets measured gets done, so we are calling today for the government to adopt our target of doubling the survival rate for these less survivable cancers to 28% by 2029. No one with cancer should feel they have been written off.”
The Less Survivable Cancers Taskforce is holding and event in the House of Parliament on Thursday 6th September to talk to MPs and peers about the importance of the new target and to seek their support.