The former Labour MP “feels a deep sense of responsibility” to give a voice to patients and pave the way for other cancer sufferers, her daughter Jess Mills said.
Baroness Jowell, 70, has donated her medical data to the Universal Cancer Databank (UCD) nearly a year after she was diagnosed with glioblastoma – a rare high-grade brain tumour.
The project aims to develop better treatments for rare forms of cancer and speed up the discovery of new ones by sharing patient’s information with researchers around the world.
Baroness Jowell spoke in the House of Commons on Thursday, where she pledged support to the UCD, a project by the Eliminate Cancer Initiative (ECI) and part-funded by the Minderoo Foundation.
The UCD will first collect data from brain cancer patients because it was “probably the most terrifying disease known to man” and the “toughest” to crack, said Australian philanthropist Andrew Forrest, founder of the ECI.
Baroness Jowell said: “It is my hope that through my cancer journey and sharing of my data, we will be able to develop better treatments for cancer and speed up the discovery of new ones.
“I’m grateful to the Eliminate Cancer Initiative and all the people who have shown me such support since I learned I had a brain tumour.
“Together, with hope, we can achieve greater survival for cancer patients across the world.”
The former MP for Dulwich and West Norwood received a standing ovation and brought many to tears in the House of Lords in January as she spoke of having seizures in taxis, ending with Irish poet Seamus Heaney’s last words: “Do not be afraid.”
She hopes the UCD will help tackle the “cancer inequalities” across the world and put patients “at the front of the agenda”, her daughter said.
“My mum feels a deep sense of responsibility to be the voice for so many voiceless patients and this action tonight is her starting to pave the path for others to tread,” Ms Mills said.
“The whole conversation around cancer treatment and the search for cures has to come back to the patient.
“This is a really historical moment to mark the future as we want to see it.”
Mr Forrest described Baroness Jowell’s pledge as an “incredibly selfless act”, describing the project as the beginning of “the march of the patients”.
“We hadn’t met, we didn’t know each other, and I put the idea to her that she could be the first to step out and contribute her data, knowing that it’s going to go into a global bank which will be freely accessible to researchers all over the world.
“The energy in her conviction literally crackled down that phone line.
“She said: ‘I’m going to do this Andrew, this is exactly what the world needs’.”
Mr Forrest hopes millions of people will follow in her footsteps and share their medical data “to help other people not tread the same tortuous suffering path which they are on”.