In May 2019, UCL's Vice-Provost (Advancement) Lori Houlihan was diagnosed with an aggressive type of brain cancer. In her name, this Fund raises vital funding for more research and better treatments
Dr Lori Houlihan - my story
In May 2019, I was living a busy, fulfilling life as Vice-Provost (Advancement) at UCL, wife and mum, leading the It’s All Academic Campaign and looking forward to the unveiling of UCL’s new Donor Wall. When I experienced déjà vu spells one day, I brushed them off, thinking that I’d go to the doctor if they didn’t go away. Then that evening I had a seizure and was rushed to my local hospital - and life changed dramatically and devastatingly for me, my husband, my 16 year old daughter taking her GCSEs and the rest of my family, friends and colleagues.
Within a week, I was diagnosed as having glioblastoma – the most aggressive form of brain cancer. I had surgery and was prescribed the current standard treatment, a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, which I’m continuing.
Fortunately, I have had the tremendous benefit of having been diagnosed, treated and cared for at UCL’s world-leading Queen’s Square neuroscience facilities by expert researchers and clinicians, where I have access to the latest knowledge and cutting-edge treatments.
I have always been proud of UCL, but to be on the other side of the research, to see first-hand what that research means when you are in a life-threatening situation, makes me prouder still.
When I was first diagnosed I was advised not to google my condition, but of course you always do. What I found was not at all encouraging but, as my brilliant surgeon told me, “no one is a statistic”. I am tolerating the treatment well, feeling positive and learning to live with the fact of my reduced life expectancy, with the tremendous support of family, friends and colleagues, whose care has buoyed me so greatly.
I am struck, however, by how little change there has been to treatment options for this cancer over the last two decades. The drugs I'm now on were in clinical phase 1 trials when I was in primary school. No novel treatments have been developed - largely due to lack of research funding.
“I have always known that philanthropic giving to UCL saves and extends lives. I now know how deeply important it feels when it is your life that is being extended thanks to the research and translation that philanthropy has enabled. For the sake of future patients, I hope this fund will support the kind of advances in understanding and treating glioblastoma similar to those we have seen in other cancers, where research and translation – driven by philanthropy – have made such a sizeable difference to outcomes.