Select Committee on Science and Technology Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 557 - 559)




  557. I now call Mr Isaac Dweben and Dr Nicky Thomas representing Cancer Black Care.

  (Mr Dweben) My name is Isaac Dweben, founder of Cancer Black Care. I am here to speak on behalf of Mr Frank Chinegwundoh who cannot be here with us today. I shall read from his statement. I apologise for not appearing in person before you. I am at the British Association of Urologists' annual meeting in Birmingham. I have asked Isaac Dweben, Chief Executive of Cancer Black Care to deliver my address. Cancer Black Care aims to address the cultural and emotional needs of people affected by cancer as well as their carers, families and friends. We intend to achieve this by leading and influencing educational programmes relating to cancer prevention, treatment and palliative care and through discussion, debate and advocacy in relation to issues concerned with quality of life of those undergoing or contemplating treatment. By doing so, we hope to reduce the stigma and fear often associated with cancer. Unpublished research done by Dr Chinegwundoh at Barts reveals that there is a high incidence of prostate cancer in black men. Research evidence by Professor Irene Higginson called "Care in their last year of life—A comparison of the experience of the first generation black Caribbean community in UK with the local white population in Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham" reveals that black cancer patients do not receive fair and equal treatment. Dr Chinegwundoh is concerned about the difficulty in getting funding for research into prostate cancer and in particular the link between race and prostate cancer. I speak in my capacity as a NHS consultant, a senior lecturer with a higher research degree and as chairperson of Cancer Black Care. I and others have put forward proposals over the last four years all of which have not been funded. For example: in 1996 two submissions to Veena Bahl of the Department of Health on awareness of prostate disorders in African-Caribbean men. Not funded. In 1997 the impact of screening for prostate cancer in East London, submitted to the NHS Executive North Thames Research and Development, a bid to improve the health among black people. Not funded. In 1998, beliefs and attitudes of African-Caribbean men relating to prostate cancer. Bid submitted to the National Lotteries Charities Board, Health and Social Research Programme theme. Not funded. In 1998 the 5-alpha reductase gene and its relationship to prostate cancer was also submitted to The Royal College of Surgeons of England. Not funded. In 1999 prostate cancer amongst African-Caribbean men in the UK, a comparative study of incidence, clinical presentation and access to health care was submitted to the National Health Service Executive South West was also not funded. The research was based on a multicentre approach across London and Bristol. All the above applications involved at least one academic institution with good research records. The last application involved urologists from across London and also Bristol and also people elsewhere. We are bound by our interest in the ethnic differences in prostate cancer. A tremendous amount of time goes into these applications. With one exception, there was no feedback. I feel that proper feedback is the least that the awarding body can do. "We are sorry that there were so many applications for limited funds and you were unsuccessful" is wholly inadequate. It would appear that without a "proven track record" and publication in the area of interest, funding will not be forthcoming. Yet how does one acquire a track record without funding? It is difficult not to draw the conclusions that funding committees fund those whom they know and secondly that prostate cancer is not a "sexy" subject for funding and adding an ethnic dimension to prostate cancer ... well I will leave it at that. We propose that the Committee should fund some themes of research in cancer care amongst the black people and that Cancer Black Care should play a leading role in these research drives. Thank you.

  Chairman: Thank you very much and thank you for being so brief. We can ask you a question.

Mrs Curtis-Thomas

  558. Would you be kind enough to tell me whether your organisation has ever received funding for any research?
  (Mr Dweben) No, there is no research, as you can see. We have done two or three proposals but no, we have not received funding at all.

Dr Gibson

  559. We were told by the Minister that £1 million had been put towards prostate cancer research over the last few months. Are you aware of that and could you bid for that?
  (Mr Dweben) Yes, we are aware of that but we are not sure if we bid that we shall be successful, because of the fact that we have never received funding. Even though prostate cancer is high among black people, we have not been successful at all. We shall be interested to bid for funding for research.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. We should love to go on longer but you realise we cannot because the five minutes are up. Thank you very much indeed and thank you Dr Thomas.

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