Pancreatic Cancer Lab Opens at Hammersmith Hospital

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Aiming to improve treatment for killer disease

A new laboratory to research potentially lifesaving treatments for pancreatic cancer has been opened at Hammersmith Hospital.

Pancreatic cancer causes the deaths of around 7,700 people in the UK every year. Surviving the condition is rare as there are often no symptoms until the cancer is too advanced to treat.

Research carried out in the new laboratory will look at how to overcome resistance to drugs and chemotherapy, which is commonly seen. It will also look at how best to select patients for newer therapies.

Opening the laboratory was made possible through private donations totalling in excess of £400,000. One of these donors was Ralph Land, 83, who lives off Fulham Palace Road in Fulham. His wife Jacqueline, a mother of two and grandmother of four died in 2010 aged 83. She received care at Hammersmith Hospital during her illness.

Jacqueline, an artist and former au pair, was diagnosed with an inoperable tumour just over a year before she died. She was given chemotherapy but the cancer spread to her other organs.

Ralph, who was married to Jacqueline for 55 years, says: " She had been brought up in a convent boarding school which was extremely strict so she was a very proper person – everything had to be right. She was an outstanding, extremely caring person.

"She took her chemotherapy so bravely. She didn’t complain once about her treatment.

" Pancreatic cancer is not very well known and survival rates are low. I believe we need to raise at least £1million to be able to continue the research programme into finding a successful treatment."

A month after his wife’s death, Ralph presented two of her paintings to the Sainsbury Wing at Hammersmith Hospital, where she had received her care. One of these was a sketch of the hospital’s iconic clock tower which she could see through the window from her bed in the ward.

The paintings still hang on the walls of the ward and Ralph revisited the artwork on the day the laboratory opened.

Ralph’s fundraising has not stopped at his donation to the new laboratory – he and his twin brother celebrated their 82nd birthdays with a sky dive, raising £14,000 towards their cause.

The laboratory they helped to fund is led by consultant oncologist Dr Harpreet Wasan, who cared for Jacqueline during her illness.

He says: " Survival of pancreatic cancer is rare as it is often not diagnosed until it is too late to save the patient. Too little research is done on this condition and we want to change this, so have opened a laboratory dedicated to finding effective treatments for pancreatic cancer and hopefully save more lives in the near future. "

Another benefactor of the new laboratory, James Layton, 66, was inspired to help fund research into pancreatic cancer after his wife Ann Plummer, known as ‘Plum’, died of the condition aged 63.

Plum, a former children’s nurse at Westminster Hospital (now incorporated into Chelsea and Westminster Hospital) became ill in February 2010 and was diagnosed a few months later.

"She was remarkably calm about it and very positive," says James. "There was nothing we could do about it – you just have to get through it."

Grandmother of seven Plum died just seven months after her diagnosis. " She was very caring and loving as well as sociable – there were 730 people at her funeral," says James. "By the time you find pancreatic cancer, it’s often too late as it doesn’t respond to chemotherapy or radiotherapy."

James has set up a charity, Plum’s Fund, to raise money for better diagnosis and treatment of the condition, and adds: "We need to find the condition earlier, or we need to find something that will deal with it when we do find it."

Find out more about Plum’s Fund at the website.