A RUGBY family who launched a petition calling for more research into brain cancer were invited to present evidence in front of parliament after an overwhelming public response.
The Realf family from Rugby launched an internet petition on the one year anniversary of the loss of loving brother and son Stephen, who died of a brain tumour in August 2014, aged only 26.
The petition was a call for an increase in funding of research into brain cancer – one of the biggest killers of children and young adults under the age of 40.
The petition – launched by Stephen’s sister Maria Lester – amassed 10,000 signatures in just the first six days, becoming the fastest growing petition on the official parliamentary website at the time and obliging the Government to respond.
The petition was then picked up by the Petitions Select Committee who contacted the Realf family.
Peter Realf, Stephen’s father, told the Observer: “We knew this petition was a great place to start and we thought it was good timing to set up the petition on the first anniversary of Stephen’s passing.
“We didn’t realise it would take off this much and we certainly didn’t expect a call from the House of Commons but we now know how important this is to many people and it can really make a difference.”
For the first time, the committee used its powers to launch an inquiry into the petition – meaning evidence can be presented to parliamentary officials.
They launched a webpage, inviting those affected by brain cancer to leave their comments and in just over a week, over 1,100 entries were received. The Realf family were told it was the largest ever public response to a committee web thread.
Peter and Maria were invited to attend the launch event, where she delivered a moving speech to the Committee MPs.
The Petitions Select Committee then invited the whole family to give formal evidence, followed by representatives of four major cancer charities.
Peter added: “This type of cancer robs the most years from people’s lives, and if you consider someone like Stephen, who was only 26, that is a substantial amount of time taken away from a long life.
“We hope all our efforts and with the help of Brain Cancer research charities, we can open a few eyes to brain cancer and the effect it can have on people.”
Last year, brain tumours only received around £7.7 million (1.5 per cent) of £498 million national spend on cancer research. Less than a fifth of those diagnosed with brain cancer survive beyond five years and unlike other cancers, the number of cases of brain cancer is rising.
For now, the family remain optimistic the inquiry will lead to some positive progress in researching this disease and this progress will be Stephen’s legacy.
The petition had attracted almost 20,000 signatures when The Observer went to press.
Visit www.petition.parliament.uk/petitions/105560 to sign the petition.