Rugby campaigner for brain cancer funding praises Dame Tessa Jowell's impact

Peter Realf was at a meeting with Dame Tessa Jowell  at the Cabinet offices in Whitehall.
Peter Realf was at a meeting with Dame Tessa Jowell at the Cabinet offices in Whitehall.

A Rugby man whose family’s campaign was instrumental in securing extra funding for brain cancer research has paid tribute to Dame Tessa Jowell after her death.

Peter Realf, whose son Stephen was just 26 when he died in 2014 from a brain tumour, spoke to the Advertiser this week.

Of Dame Tessa, who died of brain cancer on May 12, he said: “We are very sad to hear of Dame Tessa Jowell’s death. Despite exhausting treatment options in the UK, and seeking further treatments overseas, she was unable to defeat her brain tumour.

“Sadly, this is the case for so many patients with over 80% dying within five years of diagnosis.”

Mr Realf said Dame Tessa played a vital role in helping to gather international support.

In 2015 Mr Realf’s daughter, Maria Lester, set up a petition calling for more research funding.

The petition attracted massive support which led to a Petitions Select Committee inquiry, whose report said, ‘Successive Governments have failed brain tumour patients and their families’.

That was followed by a Parliamentary debate with Maria, and mum and dad Peter and Liz Realf present – and the setting up of a working group.

A press release from the Petitions Committee issued on February 22 this year said: “Today the Government has announced £45 million in funding for brain tumour research.

"This is in response to the report from the Working Group, which was set up in response to the Petitions Committee report in 2016.”

Mr Realf questioned the Government’s latest announcement, following the death of Dame Tessa, that it would ‘double’ the amount of money for brain cancer research to £40 million a year.

He said he believes this announcement may just be a restatement of the statement issued on February 22.

He said: “Repeatedly announcing old news does a great disservice to the brain tumour community, as it misleads the public into thinking this devastating cancer is receiving more funding than it actually is, and therefore they may choose to donate elsewhere.

“If Parliamentarians truly wish to pay a lasting tribute to Tessa Jowell, perhaps they will agree to ensure funding for research into brain tumours receives parity with other cancers.”