All Party Parliamentary Group on Human Relevant Science

18 October 2022 | 12.15-13:00 | Minutes

Location: Room W3, Westminster Hall, House of Commons and via Zoom

Attendees In Person MPs: Grahame Morris MP (GM)
Carla Owen (CO); Isobel Hutchinson (IH); Cait Moloney (CM); Dylan Underhill (DU)
Attendees Remotely MPs: Tan Dhesi MP (TD)
Dr. Azra Raza (AR); Professor Geoff Pilkington (GP); Pandora Pound (PP); Kathy Archibald (KA); Dharaminder Singh (DS); Jarrod Bailey (JB); Amy Beale (AB); Jessie Hellier (JH); Jan Turner (JT); Gerry Kenna (GK); Rebecca Ram (RR); Darcie Wilson (DW)
Apologies Alan Brown; Allan Dorans; Dame Angela Eagle; Ben Everitt; Caroline Lucas; Cat Smith; Catherine West; Claire Hanna; Dr Dan Poulter; Daniel Zeichner; Debbie Abrahams; Deidre Brock; Diane Abbott; Edward Timpson; Emma Hardy; Emma Lewell-Buck; Fabian Hamilton; Fiona Hodgson; Geraint Davies; Sir Greg Knight; Hilary Benn; Hywel Williams; James Daly; Jamie Stone; Janet Fookes; Jon Cruddas; Julian Sturdy; Kate Osborne; Kerry McCarthy; Dr Lisa Cameron; Marion Fellows; Dr Matthew Offord; Nadia Whittome; Sir Peter Bottomley; Dr Philippa Whitford; Ronnie Cowan; Sarah Olney; Stephen Doughty; Stephen Farry; Tim Farron; Toby Perkins; Tonia Antoniazzi; Tony Lloyd; Virginia Crosbie; Yasmin Qureshi; Yvonne Fovargue; Andrew Selous; Anna Firth; Baroness Nicky Morgan; Alex Sobel; Clive Betts; Elliot Colburn; Giles Watling; Kim Johnson; Kim Leadbeater; Luke Pollard; Michael Fabricant; Robert Halfon; Sir Roger Gale; Tracey Crouch; Virendra Sharma; Darren Jones; John Nicolson; Kevan Jones; Damian Collins; Martin Vickers; Baroness Hayman of Ullock; Angus Macneil; Andrew Gwynne.

1. Welcome from Chair

GM welcomed attendees to the meeting.

2. Apologies for absence

GM noted increased absences due to the busy political period.

3. Introduction to Dr Azra Raza

GM introduced AR.

Dr. Azra Raza is the Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Medicine, Clinical Director of the Evans Foundation MDS Center, and Executive Director of The First Cell Coalition for Cancer Survivors at Columbia University in New York.

Dr. Raza has:

  • published the results of her laboratory research and clinical trials in prestigious, peer reviewed journals such as The New England Journal of Medicine, Nature and British Journal of Haematology
  • mentored hundreds of medical students, residents, oncology fellows, doctoral and post-doctoral students in the last three decades.
  • collaborated on multiple high yielding large research projects with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies including Celgene, Novartis and Regeneron
  • established The Oncology Think Tank with 30 oncology leaders from academia and industry
  • published The First Cell: And the human costs of pursuing cancer to the last which is a best seller
  • She also serves on numerous National and International panels as a reviewer, consultant and advisor and is the recipient of a number of prestigious awards.

A full bio is available here

4. Presentation from Dr Azra Raza

AR gave a presentation in which she:

  • Presented a case study of a patient whose cancer diagnosis was so serious that he would never recover.
  • Described the lack of progress in cancer research, stating that 95% of clinical trials fail today, and for those that do pass, the impact for patients is a median improvement in survival of 2.1 months.
  • Stated that 90% of resources are given to mouse studies, despite mouse immune systems being focused on combating earth borne pathogens whereas human immune systems are focused on airborne pathogens.
  • Shared “The First Cell” concept, her approach of shifting focus to finding and eliminating the first cancer cell in patients, rather than pursuing the last cell.
  • Stated that she started the MDS and AML Tissue Repository where she has collected over 60,000 tissue samples since 1984. Using an ISET machine to sift cells based on size, AR has successfully trapped blood cells of pre-leukaemia patients.
  • Shared how penning the Opinion Paper with the Oncology Think Tank “We Must Find Ways to Detect Cancer Much Earlier” helped her build consensus on the importance of finding the first cell.
  • Described the game-changing tissue bank “The First Cell Center” and “First Cell Coalition for Cancer Survivors” which collects samples from cancer survivors whose chance of re-developing cancer is higher than for those developing first cancer. The samples collected are tested to try to catch the first cancerous cell.

5. Q&A with members of the audience

GM opened the floor for questions.

Question: GP asked whether any progress had been made in the US in nailing the first cell with biomarkers, particularly relating to glioblastoma (aggressive form of brain cancer)?

  • AR stated that there is high possibility of finding biomarkers for brain tumours and that discovery of them would be accelerated if more researchers paid attention to early detection. A paradigm shift is needed. Showcasing success in one cancer will encourage adoption of this approach in other cancers.

Question:  GM asked AR for advice on what policymakers can do to shift emphasis away from ineffective animal-based research towards more human relevant methodologies. GM asked for examples of success in the US that can be applied in the UK.

  • AR asserted that the UK is in fact ahead of the US in this area and cited Cancer Research UK and the Wellcome Trust as UK organisations who are focused on early detection and human tissue research. To change policy, AR recommended using the power of emotion by involving human stories. At the end of her book, AR asks families who have lost loved ones what they would have done differently. They all said they would not do anything differently because there are no new options. It is important to stop celebrating miniscule steps forward and to bring real-life stories to policymakers.

Question: GK asked what message AR would recommend the UK communicate to the world community to encourage international collaboration

  • AR felt that resources are more important than international cooperation. The best minds must be financially incentivised to work on this issue. These resources lie with Big Pharma.
  • Follow up Question: GK asked whether AR felt a consortium approach could be brought to Big Pharma to encourage competitive collaboration.
  • AR has seen engagement from Regeneron and Wellcome Trust. The way to encourage their collaboration, as well as young researchers, is with money.

6. AOB