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MPs Insist AI Funding Must Be Driven To Breast Cancer Research

Conservative MP Dehenna Davison (Alamy)

3 min read

A cross-party group of MPs has written to Tech Secretary Michelle Donelan calling for some of the £100m Rishi Sunak has promised for further AI research to be directed to exploring treatments for a “little known strain” of breast cancer.

Conservatives Dehenna Davison, Helen Grant and Robert Courts, as well as Liberal Democrats Sarah Dyke and Daisy Cooper have told Donelan that Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer (ILC) has been “overlooked for decades and requires our urgent attention” as the “second most common type of breast cancer”. 

Last week, Sunak pledged to invest "a further £100 million to accelerate the use of AI”. Speaking in London, the Prime Minister said that the technology could “help find novel dementia treatments or develop vaccines for cancer” and believed that funding could help “the most transformational breakthroughs in treatments for previously incurable diseases”. 

In their letter, seen by PoliticsHome, the MPs welcomed Sunak's “exciting announcement” and called on the government to “allocate funding specifically for ILC research”. 

“This £100 million cash injection provides the perfect opportunity to do the right thing and help us solve some of the greatest social challenges of our time," they wrote.

“Tackling this deadly and life-changing condition should be made a priority when allocating funding.” 

The MPs conclude: “We would be grateful if you could please look into this and ensure the government is taking all the steps it can to improve the lives of lobular cancer patients.” 

Their letter was sent as the government’s landmark AI safety summit got underway at Bletchley Park, hosting delegates from countries, top tech firms and civil society organisations from around the world to discuss the risks posed by frontier AI. 

Davison told PoliticsHome that she has learned more about this specific type of cancer since meeting with her constituent Katie over the summer, and joins campaigners in hoping for a dedicated research stream for lobular cancer. 

“Invasive Lobular Breast Cancer is the second most common type of breast cancer, but currently has no specific treatment and often goes undetected," she explained. 

“This is why I and cross-party MPs have written to the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology calling for funding to kickstart this vital work.”

Last month, Davison raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions, telling MPs that around 15 per cent of people diagnosed with breast cancer are diagnosed with the lobular strain which is “harder to detect" and "has worse outcomes". 

Sunak responded by saying that treatments and faster detection mean that survival rates from breast cancer are increasing. “Last year, more than 1 million scans were carried out, preventing an estimated 1,300 deaths from breast cancer,” he added.  

A spokesperson at the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology said: “The £100 million fund we announced last week is vital step in driving forward this work. 

“These MPs raise an example of a condition where the application of AI provides hope for radical improvements in diagnosis and treatment. 

“Through this funding the government hopes to accelerate the rate at which AI can be applied in clinical settings to support patient outcomes across a range of conditions and we will work closely with interested MPs on this vital issue.”

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