Dame Caroline Dinenage, Member of Parliament for Gosport, has today been announced as the Chair of a Government Cancer Taskforce established to improve detection, treatment, and care for children with cancer.

The groundbreaking Department of Health and Social Care’s Children and Young People Cancer Taskforce is the result of years of tireless campaigning by Dame Caroline and her constituent Charlotte Fairall, the founder of children’s cancer charity, Sophie’s Legacy.

In September 2020, Charlotte’s daughter Sophie was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and tragically passed away a year later, at just 10 years old.

Charlotte met with Caroline ten days after Sophie‘s death, together they held meetings with experts on a range of subjects from Genomics to paediatric oncology, to gather information about the issues and the solutions. In January 2022 Caroline raised the matter in Prime Minster’s Questions and in April 2022 she secured the first ever childhood cancer debate in the House of Commons.

Caroline and Charlotte have met with various Health Secretaries proposing a Childhood Cancer Mission developed by as Taskforce that would include scientists, researchers, oncologists, charities, parents, with a goal to create a Children and Young People’s Cancer Plan. In September 2023 Caroline raised the Childhood Cancer Mission with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Cancer is the most common cause of childhood death outside of infancy, but only 3% of cancer research funds are allocated for children.

The new Taskforce launching today will unite top clinicians, leading cancer charities, and the Government, with the common goal of saving lives and reducing the long-term impacts of cancer. Structured meetings with experts and senior figures from the Department for Health and Social Care, NHS England, the Office for Life Sciences, as well as appointees from the wider clinical community, will drive forward progress in improving cancer outcomes for children.

Responding to the announcement, Caroline said: “Sophie’s story profoundly touched the hearts of local people, and it’s been such an honour to work with Charlotte on our mission to improve the way we detect, treat, and care for children with cancer.

“Our journey together has taken us from Gosport to the heart of Government, and I’m delighted that the Health Secretary has given us this once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring together experts from across the sector to drive the changes we want to see.

“It’s an honour to be asked to chair the Children and Young People Cancer Taskforce, bringing together key figures who can make progress across three key areas; genomics, detection and diagnosis, and research and innovation. I hope that my knowledge and experience will provide the leadership that this important issue deserves.”

Charlotte Fairall stated: “Through the collaborative efforts of Dame Caroline Dinenage and myself, we have tirelessly pursued meaningful change for children and young people battling cancer. In memory of my daughter, Sophie Fairall, whose courageous spirit and heartfelt bucket list ignited our mission, we’ve worked diligently over the past two and a half years to transform her dreams into impactful change.

“We’re hopeful this task force will spark the vital changes needed for children like Sophie to survive cancer and lead fulfilling lives free from the burdens of treatment impacts.”

Health and Social Care Secretary, Victoria Atkins, said: “Discovering your child has cancer is among the worst news a parent or child can receive. Thanks to the remarkable progress in treatment and research survival rates are higher than ever however even then life changing consequences can remain.

“This taskforce will help bring together world-leading experts and those who have dedicated their lives to fighting cancer to discuss how we can go further faster and to drive progress in cancer care for children and young people.

“I am pleased we have such a respected figure as Dame Caroline leading the discussions and we look forward to working with all those on the taskforce to to make child cancer care faster, simpler and fairer for all.”

The Children and Young People Cancer Taskforce’s areas of focus will include:

  1. DNA testing and treatment – ensuring children and young people get access to high-quality personalised therapies, new treatments and personalised medicines are more readily available and the offer in the devolved administrations is examined.
  2. Detection and diagnosis – giving children the best chance to beat cancer through earlier diagnosis, improving training, exploring how AI can further support the workforce and raising awareness so people come forward sooner.
  3. Investment in research and innovation – improving the targeting of research funding, reviewing children’s access to clinical trials, gaining greater access to data – including potential data-sharing arrangements with Australia – to inform future therapies and treatments in England, and encouraging teams to consider innovative solutions.