Brokenshire backs calls for new NHS approach to experimental cancer treatment

Former Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire has voiced support for Dame Tessa Jowell's calls to allow cancer patients to be free to take the risk of undergoing more experimental treatments on the NHS.

The Old Bexley and Sidcup MP, who returned to Parliament on Tuesday after undergoing surgery for lung cancer, said it was time to "challenge the thinking" around ways to treat the disease.

Baroness Jowell, who has brain cancer, has called for more opportunities for "adaptive trials" in which patients can undergo different treatments, and if one does not work they can immediately move on to the next.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Brokenshire said it was time to asses how "novel" therapies could be made accessible to help those fighting the disease, while ensuring the system still protects patients.

He said: "Of course, equally ensuring you are not abusing that situation and taking advantage of people in hard, difficult circumstance.

"But I think we do need to challenge the thinking around all of this and assess what more can be done."

The former Cabinet minister first discovered he was unwell in September, when he started to cough up blood while on a weekend break with his family in Northern Ireland.

The 50-year-old underwent tests, including X-rays and CT scans, although they did not find anything of concern.

It was only after a bronchoscopy on December 7, the day the Prime Minister announced a deal on phase one of the Brexit negotiations, that a cancerous lesion was discovered.

He underwent surgery to remove the cancer and part of his right lung a week after announcing his resignation from the Cabinet on January 8.

Mr Brokenshire said Theresa May had been "very human, very supportive and genuinely concerned about my health and well-being" and praised her for her support at such a difficult time.

The husband and father said his experience had made him "take a step back and think about what is important".

While continuing with his recovery, the MP hinted he may one day return to the Cabinet in the future, saying: "I am strong, I am resilient, I look to the future with confidence."

In January Baroness Jowell was given an unprecedented standing ovation in the House of Lords after making an emotional plea for more cancer treatments to be made available through the NHS.

The Labour peer told BBC Radio 4's Today programme at the time: "Brain cancers happen very quickly, you have to show that there's been change quickly and if you don't do that then basically nothing changes."

She went on: "That (adaptive trials) is exactly the kind of risk that patients should be free to take, it should be a risk that they have the chance to take, and it's certainly what somebody like me wants."

Dame Tessa has been treated in London on the NHS but had advice from the US and consulted a doctor in Germany.

"I got to the point in the NHS in London where I couldn't be given any more treatment but it was very clear that if I went to Germany then I had a chance of taking out this immunotherapy - a new experiment," she said.

"And I was and I am prepared to try that."