UCL News


Patient raises cancer research funds

16 March 2006

Friends and family of UCLH breast cancer patient Irene Cowell have raised over £1,000 for breast imaging research at UCL.


A patient of breast cancer specialist and surgeon Mr Michael Douek (UCL Surgery), Irene was diagnosed with cancer in November 2005. Her friend, Miss Sarah Bush, had promised that she would shave off her long hair in solidarity if Irene lost hers during treatment.

Sarah was true to her promise, and raised the funds in only eight days. The family was so impressed with the care team that they decided to pledge the funds to further Mr Douek's research into improving breast cancer imaging techniques.

Irene said: "I owe everything to Mr Douek. Within 24 hours, I was diagnosed and had received an operation to remove the tumour. He's a real gentleman and the team is fantastic. I can't praise them highly enough. They never made me feel like a stranger, and they were always there if I needed someone to talk to."

Irene, daughter Michelle and mother Ilene along with Sarah presented the cheques to Mr Douek and breast care nurses Brenda Pinnock and Amelia Baldry at the UCLH Oncology Unit. Mr Douek said: "I'm truly delighted that Irene has managed to raise this money, and flattered that she has gone to all this trouble while she was undergoing chemotherapy. The research she is funding will benefit all women undergoing breast conserving surgery."

Mr Douek's project, supported by the Health Foundation and the Academy of Medical Sciences, is concerned with guiding surgical procedures from detailed three-dimensional images produced by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technologies, without the need for a mammogram, which exposes the patient to x-ray radiation.

"When we first started using the technique it was very expensive and time consuming, but we've seen costs halve in a very short space of time and scans now take less than 15 minutes," said Mr Douek. It gives a very accurate picture of the extent of the cancer, and has the additional advantage of producing good results for younger women, who are generally harder to scan because of their denser tissue."

Mr Douek is also pursuing research into other less invasive imaging techniques such as optical tomography, and how the rate of blood supply to and from cancerous tissue affects its growth.

To find out more, use the links at the bottom of this article.

Image 1: Mr Douek is handed the funds raised by Sarah Bush and Irene Cowell

Image 2: Irene Cowell surrounded by her family and her care team

Image 3: Sarah Bush having her head shaved