Plea for new approach on the treatment of cancer which claimed life of Bradley Lowery

Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery, whose story became known worldwide as people supported his fight against neuroblastoma.
Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery, whose story became known worldwide as people supported his fight against neuroblastoma.

A Tory MP has urged ministers to rethink their treatment for the childhood cancer that killed popular football mascot Bradley Lowery.

Kwasi Kwarteng said the existing policy not to treat survivors of neuroblastoma who relapse was "very harsh" and putting families under huge pressure to raise money for treatment.

The Conservative joined health minister Steve Brine in paying tribute to Sunderland AFC fan Bradley, who died from the condition last July aged just six.

Mr Kwarteng said that Bradley "touched the hearts of millions" in his short life.

Mr Brine also said the youngster, from Blackhall Colliery, had lit up many football grounds with his smile and left a tremendous legacy in raising awareness of the condition.

Mr Kwarteng also raised the case of teenage Alfie Ward, who is battling neuroblastoma for the third time and lives in his Surrey constituency of Spelthorne.

"The problem that we have is that the NHS under current dispensation, its current policy, is to fund treatment in the first instance," Mr Kwarteng said.

"But as Alfie started nursery and he battled the disease, it became apparent that having survived this appalling affliction, it came back, and it's at this point that I want to make the case for the NHS to review its policy about not funding relapses.

"Because as I understand, about half the people who suffer from this appalling illness actually relapse if they recover, and it seems very harsh to adopt a policy where people can be funded the first time they're affected by the illness, but not for subsequent relapses."

MPs heard that neuroblastoma is the third most common type of childhood cancer, affecting around 100 children every year.

Mr Kwarteng added that Alfie's parents were now attempting to raise around £600,000 so he can get treatment.

"We shouldn't have to be in a situation where in the case of relapses the obligation falls on the shoulder of the parents and friends to go through what is very stressful," he said.

"We've all raised money for various causes in our time and it's a very stressful, very time-consuming endeavour.

"I think we have to as a society look at ways in which the NHS could fund, and the NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence), could fund relapses, so that people won't have to go through, parents of young boys like Alfie Ward won't have to go through the kinds of suffering and the pressure that they have done simply to try and give their son a fighting chance for life."

The minister added that NICE, a body which advises the Government on the use new medicines, is reviewing two new treatments for neuroblastoma.

"We want the NHS to be the best in the world at treating childhood cancers and all cancers," said Mr Brine.

"One can only but imagine the pain that Archie's family are going through, they have our prayers and our support."

He added: "The Government, even in difficult economic times, is working hard to implement the cancer strategy to invest in research and to continue in the investment into cancer treatments so that we can lead the world in the fight against cancer, make this a reality and make life better for people like Archie."