UCL Giving


Celia and Anthony Abrahams: passing the baton

Since her death, Celia Abrahams’ family have worked to ensure that her passionate belief in driving medical advances through research continues to inspire better outcomes for people with brain cancer.

Photo of Celia Abrahams.

3 February 2023

After being diagnosed with a brain tumour in 2008, Celia defied the odds associated with her terminal illness. She would go on to live for a further three years, energised by a personal mission to help others who face the same prognosis.

Her cancer – glioblastoma – is the most aggressive to affect the brain. For several decades, there has been only one course of treatment: surgery followed by a combination of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, which Celia undertook under the care of Dr Paul Mulholland at University College London Hospital (UCLH).

However, over time her disease inevitably progressed even as her philanthropic efforts intensified. Just weeks after making a hugely successful appeal at a charity dinner, Celia would pass away at the age of 64.

“The baton has now been passed,” she wrote in her final entry to her fundraising page. 

Providing a platform 

Celia’s husband Anthony was determined to take that baton and run with it. He wanted to mark the life and achievement of his wife, and to do so in a way that honoured her strong belief in the potential offered by medical research.

Having founded the Celia and Anthony Abrahams Trust in 2015, he would draw inspiration from the UCL Dr Lori Houlihan Glioblastoma Fund, which was established by UCL’s former Vice-Provost (Advancement) following her own diagnosis.

Like Celia, Lori had faced a stark situation with dignity and determination. “The drugs I'm now on were in clinical phase 1 trials when I was in primary school,” she had said in 2020. “No novel treatments have been developed – largely due to lack of research funding.”

To that end, the money raised by Lori supported the work of Dr Mulholland, who – in addition to his clinical responsibilities – leads the Glioblastoma Research Group at the UCL Cancer Institute.

For the Abrahams family, this represented a truly fitting way to ensure the incredible legacy of their wife and mother. Through the award of a grant, they could actively empower the consultant who had treated Celia and provide a platform for his team to establish a basis for novel new therapies. 

The brink of breakthrough 

As of August 2022, donors have raised over £235,000 for glioblastoma research at UCL, a sum which has had near-instant impact on Dr Mulholland’s team and their ability to enable change in the treatment of glioblastoma.

Owing to the support of the Abrahams, the Group has been able to appoint a postdoctoral scientist to carry out pioneering experimentation on glioblastoma cells. The postholder will work shoulder-to-shoulder with a recently-hired bioinformatician – themselves recruited using donations by Lori and her Fund.

Now armed with a growing repository of data and two new posts enabled by philanthropy, Dr Mulholland believes his Group is ever closer to a breakthrough moment.

When it comes, he knows it will be in no small part down to the strength and generosity of Celia, her family, and all those who have donated to her cause. “We would not be where we are without your support,” he says.

“Thank you.” 


Courtesy of the Abrahams family.


UCL Cancer Institute
UCL Glioblastoma Research Group
UCL Giving