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The long game: UCL’s cancer research is creating hope for the future

After losing her mother to the disease, Imogen Beecroft established 'Cancer. We're Done.' to support UCL's goal of transforming treatment.

Researchers at UCL Cancer Institute

4 February 2020

"It was too late for my mum, but everything I've seen and heard about CAR T-cell therapy makes me optimistic that in 10 years time her outcome could have been different."
Imogen Beecroft, founder of Cancer. We're Done.

On April 21, 2018, Imogen Beecroft’s mother, Jacqui, told her family that she felt unwell. Just 32 days later, she passed away. She had kidney cancer, which quickly spread all over her body. Sadly, this story is far from unique. Cancer can be merciless.

The incredible speed of Jacqui’s cancer’s progression meant that Imogen’s family had little time to help her. But in researching treatments, UCL’s pioneering work with immunotherapy had caught their attention. And now, Imogen is on a year long mission to help fund the research and give hope to future patients like her mum. 

Supporting ground-breaking research at UCL 

CAR T-cell therapy is a type of immunotherapy, developed by Dr Martin Pule and Dr Claire Roddie at the UCL Cancer Institute. With clinical trials running at UCLH and Great Ormond Street Hospital, it has the potential to be the most powerful and effective form of biological therapy for cancer. 

The therapy works by reprogramming healthy blood cells so they can recognise cancer cells and attack them, as they would a virus. These cells then act as a ‘living drug’ in the patient’s immune system, helping to prevent relapses.

The Institute has seen promising results in children and young adults with leukaemia. And now, the team is looking to trial further potentially life-altering research in solid cancers – beginning with the treatment of liver cancer.

Cancer. We’re Done. 

Inspired by learning about ground-breaking research like CAR-T cell therapy, Imogen and her family asked people to donate to the UCL Cancer Institute instead of bringing flowers to her mother’s funeral. Then, in 2019, Imogen decided to start formally fundraising for research into immunotherapy. This was where her Cancer. We’re Done. campaign was born.

The year-long initiative will donate 90% of the funds it raises to the research team at the UCL Cancer Institute. The remaining 10% will be split between two charities who support those with a cancer diagnosis: Shine and CLIC Sargent

Cancer. We’re Done. is raising money in lots of different ways – selling t-shirts and jumpers online, an auction night in Spring, and a marathon walk in June. Anyone is welcome to join the marathon walk, donate to the campaign or get involved in any way they can. Find out more at www.cancerweredone.com or get in touch via cancer.weredone@gmail.com

Imogen is also hosting a work experience raffle, designed to give students who otherwise wouldn’t have such chances the ability to access a career-changing opportunity. Thirty diverse companies have offered to host a student for a week’s paid work experience. Tickets are just £5 and winners will be drawn at the end of May.

Looking to the future of research

UCL has one of the greatest concentrations of biomedical science expertise in Europe. With over 400 talented scientists based as the UCL Cancer Institute, we’ve already taken huge steps in our mission to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer – translating fundamental research into treatments.

This has been possible thanks to philanthropic donations, both big and small, which have helped the team respond to developments in the field and take risks in research that can lead to huge advancements.

For Imogen, supporting UCL just felt right. She says: “UCL has been really great to work with. The team has helped me understand exactly where my funds would go, making it very tangible and transparent. They’ve been incredibly supportive of what is probably quite an unorthodox project of mine. They’re always available and constantly asking what they can do to help me with my efforts.”

“I don’t see it as charity, I see it as an investment in the future,” Imogen says. “Donating to something at the forefront of cancer research could make a massive difference to coming generations. That’s really important to me.”

The UCL Cancer Institute is a priority project for UCL’s It’s All Academic Campaign to raise over £600 million. Our mission is to enable researchers from across UCL and our industry partners to discover kinder, more effective cancer treatments that will result in patients living longer. The research out of UCL Cancer Institute is just one step UCL is taking to help tackle the global epidemic of cancer. For further information about UCL’s cancer research, click here. To support the centre, please click here.