Dame Kelly Holmes supports calls for Britain to make blood cancer visible

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The Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, together with nine blood cancer patient groups, has announced double Olympic gold medallist Dame Kelly Holmes as the official ambassador of the ‘Make Blood Cancer Visible’ (MBCV) 2018 campaign.

MBCV is a nation-wide campaign which aims to inform, educate and increase awareness of blood cancer. This year, the campaign calls for governments in the UK to give blood cancer the priority and recognition it deserves, starting with clear long-term commitments in their next cancer plans.

“It’s so important that more people know about the various blood cancers, and of their symptoms, so that those who are suffering can be diagnosed early and receive the right treatment”

Three mini-films have been released today as part of the campaign, featuring Ruth, a 32-year old survivor and mother-of-two; Verity and Nathan, parents who lost their eight-month-old baby to blood cancer; and Dame Kelly Holmes speaking out for the first time about losing her mother to myeloma this time last year. Films sharing the stories of Scottish and Welsh patients will also be released later this month.

In addition, an installation of transparent, motion-activated human figures which creatively represent the ‘unseen’ or invisible nature of blood cancer are in Westfield in Stratford and then move to Cardiff, Manchester and Edinburgh, each for one week, respectively during  September 2018. The figures share real-life stories from people with blood cancer, in their own voices, encouraging passers-by listen to their experiences and to show their support for the campaign.

Blood cancer is the 5th most common cancer in the UK, made up of more than 100 different sub-types including leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. It affects more than 240,000 adults and claims more lives each year than either breast or prostate cancer. Despite this, patients often require more visits to their GP before diagnosis, compared to solid tumour cancers. These delays in diagnosis can ultimately lead to patients being disadvantaged and experiencing poorer survival outcomes.

Dame Kelly Holmes said: “My mother, Pamela, died from myeloma – a type of blood cancer – in August last year. As it’s not well-known, my family and I knew very little about it, and my mother’s symptoms went undetected for years. It’s so important that more people know about the various blood cancers, and of their symptoms, so that those who are suffering can be diagnosed early and receive the right treatment that could prolong or potentially save their lives.”

Gemma Peters, CEO of the blood cancer charity Bloodwise, said: “Blood cancers are collectively the third biggest cancer killer in the UK but we know that awareness of diseases like leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma and their symptoms is startlingly low. This important campaign is helping to shed a light on these cancers and the problems that patients face.”

Rozlyn Bekker, Medical Director at Janssen UK, said: “We are delighted to continue our partnership with patient groups on the annual Make Blood Cancer Visible campaign. Janssen remains committed to raising awareness of blood cancer, with a view to ensuring that it is better-understood by patients and healthcare professionals, and prioritised appropriately by UK governments.”

Make Blood Cancer Visible is sponsored by Janssen and supported by Anthony Nolan, Bloodwise, CLL Support Association, CML Support, Leukaemia CARE, Lymphoma Action, MDS UK, Myeloma UK, and Waldenstrom (WM) UK, and will run throughout September as part of Blood Cancer Awareness Month.