Lord Saatchi’s Cancer Initiative/Updated 21.05.13

‘Cancer doctors need freedom to innovate’

Lord Maurice Saatchi, whose wife Josephine Hart died from peritoneal cancer in 2011, is calling for the law relating to cancer treatment to be changed.

He describes the current law as a ‘barrier to progress in curing cancer’ and says doctors are deterred from trying new forms of treatment in case they are sued – they often know that standard procedures are not always in their patients’ interests, but they are so afraid of being sued they end up practising defensive medicine.

Lord Saatchi has now set up and is sponsoring an Initiative on Cancer – an informal collaboration of clinicians, academics, researchers, patients and charities – whose vision is innovation in research and clinical practice that will allow people with rare and less common cancers more choices and better quality of life.

Lord Saatchi’s Private Members’ Medical Innovation Bill would encourage ‘responsible innovation’. By removing the fear of litigation, it is hoped many doctors will not simply opt for ‘safe’ standard procedures, but will be encouraged to push the boundaries of medical knowledge.

To see Lord Saatchi discuss this with Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman in December 2012, click here

AMMF joins Discussion Group

As a first step, informal round table discussion groups between leading members of Cancer52 and Douglas Slater of Lord Saatchi’s Initiative on Cancer have been set up.

AMMF, as a member of Cancer52, was invited to attend one of the first of these discussion groups on Monday 11th March. The meeting was hosted by Douglas Slater* together with Jane Lyons of Cancer52 and Dominic Nutt**, Press and Communications Associate for the Initiative, and there were eight other representatives of the rarer cancer charities present.  Douglas Slater introduced the initiative and its aims, and explained that Lord Saatchi is determined to use his resources and contacts to help the rarer cancers community.  We were then asked for our initial reponses.

The discussions that followed were wide ranging. However, it was strongly felt by all that there is far too little awareness of the rarer cancers, resulting so often in late diagnosis, and that this is a subject that needs to be addressed, not only at GP level, but in the medical schools.  The meeting concluded with all being invited to put forward their thoughts for consideration on how to move the initiative forward, what the next steps should be.

AMMF’s initial thoughts – with Lord Saatchi’s backing and contacts this could provide a huge step forward for all aspects of the much neglected rarer cancers – long overdue and badly needed, especially considering rarers cancers represent at least 52% of all the cancers.  However, like all things, there is another side.  Innovation in treatments is, of course, badly needed, and no doubt there are many times a medic, when faced with a dire situation, would like to be free to try a treatment showing promise, perhaps in another country, but not yet proven here in the UK – but how would we protect the patient from ‘reckless experimentation’,  or indeed from the maverick …   Much to think about!

Let us have your opinion.

Dominic Nutt believes that innovation saved his life when a doctor caring for him was prepared to take a risk, even though, as the law currently stands, had there been complications, he, or his widow, could have sued.  Dominic states, “Maurice Saatchi’s health bill is on the right track”.

To read Dominic’s article, published in The Telegraph, 13 January 2013, describing what happened to him and why he is backing Lord Saatchi, click here

*Douglas Slater is a former Clerk of the House of Lords and Cabinet Office civil servant and special adviser. He’s also a writer, critic and political strategist. In 1988 he co-founded the gay rights’ group Stonewall, along with the actors Michael Cashman and Ian McKellen. (Following Clause 28, he was an adviser to Prime Minister John Major).  He is now working closely with Lord Saatchi on the new Initiative for Cancer.

**Dominic Nutt is now Director of Communications – The Saatchi Cancer Initiative at M&C Saatchi – Creating awareness of Lord (Maurice) Saatchi’s campaign to create a culture of innovation within the NHS in order to find new ways to treat rare cancers. Building political and media support for Lord Saatchi’s Private Members’ Medical Innovation Bill. He reports directly to Lord Saatchi.

14 March 2013

Update on 21 May 2013

As Lord Maurice Saatchi continues to promote his Medical Innovation Bill, he asks: “How many deaths have been recorded as having been caused by cancer treatment, rather than the cancer itself?”  (He believes it could be 15,000 …)

Yesterday, 20th May, Lord Saatchi directed a question to Lord Howe, Health Minister, in the House of Lords, asking,  “As this is supposed to be the era of big data, will you review the limitations of cancer mortality statistics in order to assist scientists and doctors to have the information to move forward innovation towards a cure for cancer?”

Lord Howe replied that statistics were collected for when cancer was the cause of death but not when treatment of cancer was the cause of death.  He agreed it was “important to have more information about the effect of cancer treatments on mortality” but added that “new data collections” were under way to provide more detail.

Lord Howe added that new figures would provide better information about deaths following the delivery of chemotherapy while others statistics would give information about death after surgical treatment,  saying new figures would provide better information about deaths following the delivery of chemotherapy while others statistics would give information about death after surgical treatment, but warned: “It can be very hard to identify the precise cause or sequence of progression of factors resulting in death, particularly for those with end-stage cancer or who are particularly frail and are experiencing physical deterioration.  So this can never I think be a precise science.”

To read the article appearing in today’s Telegraph, click here

To hear the discussion with John Humphrys, Professor Peter Johnson,  CRUK’s Chief Clinician, and Lord Saatchi on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, click here

The interview is 2:52:15 in

21 May 2013