Leukaemia Research Fund

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Originally published in December 2002 icon

Leukaemia Research Fund logo

110,000 people in the UK have leukaemia (or related blood disorders lymphoma and myeloma) and the LRF pledges to make a world of difference to every one. In 2002-3 this charity spent 20m supporting nearly 400 researchers and a network of dedicated researchers in study centres across the country from Edinburgh to Salisbury, Oxford to Canterbury, Cambridge, Liverpool and Leeds. Another f54m will follow in the next five years boosting the urgent quest to improve treatment - so exhausting for patients and stressful for their families. Currently doctors, haemotologists and scientists are focussing on four main fields of endeavour. Firstly they aim to unravel the complex mistakes of biology that allow cells to become cancerous. Understanding how DNA damage occurs - it’s best described as a tangle in the ball of wool lifeline in every cell - is the first step to repairing DNA damage or using its marker as a means of attacking the leukaemia. It’s believed that some people’s genetic make-up predisposes them to leukaemia, and that their DNA is then more likely to be disrupted by external cancer-causing agents - radiation or man-made chemicals.


Ian Botham
Ian Botham at the start of his
John O’Groats to Land’s End walk

A second line of research focusses on vaccines and immunotherapy, boosting the body’s natural defences to identify and attack leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma cells. Reducing the risks of bone marrow transplantation is also urgent: since Louise (see page 5) had her transplant ten years ago, doctors have identified a positive benefit to matching patients with unrelated donors: the graft marrow can tweak the host immune system into destroying the small number of residual leukaemia cells. Further research aims to boost this acitivity whilst minimising graft-versus-host disease, in which the donor cells attack healthy host organs. Finally, there’s work in progress to develop tailor made treatments based on the individual patient rather than the generalised disease. Children, especially, are sometimes over-treated in order to achieve a cure, and the hope is to identify the percentage who could benefit from milder treatments with fewer side effects.

When the Leukaemia Research Fund was established in 1960, a diagnosis of childhood leukaemia was almost always fatal. Today more than seven out of 10 children will enjoy a full future. That’s a fitting tribute to the small girl from Middlesborough whose story lit the charity’s spark. Susan Eastwood died of the disease just before her seventh birthday. Fund-raising in her memory began in Teesside and, after discussions with the Institute of Health, it was taken nationwide. The Leukaemia Research Fund was born and the original money raised was invested in the country’s first-ever specialist leukaemia unit (costing just 4,950) at Great Ormond Street.

Gary Lineker
Gary Lineker signing autographs
at an LRF event.

Perhaps because so many children and young people are affected, this cause touches many hearts - and a grand team of celebrities who boost fundraising. Good Life actress Felicity Kendal is a leading supporter and cricketer Ian Botham has raised f4m with a series of sponsored walks. TV stars of Emmerdale, London’s Burning and the Bill regularly run the London Marathon in aid of the LRF. Gary Lineker (whose oldest son George had, and overcame, childhood leukaemia) is also a great supporter, and his wife Michelle is patron of the Bikeathon events that continue across the country in 2003.

Only 5p in the is spent on administration, and if the LRF is to continue underpinning research projects to the tune of 2Om a year further donations and inventive fundraisers are always needed.

Further details and local branch phone numbers from:
Leukaemia Research Fund
43 Great Ormond Street
Tel: 0207 405 0101; Website: http://www.lrf.org.uk.

To become a bone marrow donor through the National Blood Service Register you need to be 18-45 years old and in good health. Tel: 08457 711 711

Or contact the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust on 0207 284 1234 which has the UK’S largest register of 330,000 volunteers (aged 18-40) who can be called on if their tissue type matches a patient in need.
Website: http://www.anthonynolan.org.uk


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