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How your support changed the life of a scientist

As well as helping progress scientific research, your support also has a big impact on the lives and careers of many researchers across the world. Researchers such as Dr Luke Gaughan at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research at Newcastle University, who has been part of Team Worldwide for over a decade. Your fundraising efforts have helped take Dr Gaughan from an early-career scientist to a leader of his own cancer research team, who are dedicated to finding the answers that will lead to better treatments for cancer.

How has Worldwide Cancer Research been involved in your career?

Worldwide Cancer Research first supported my research in 2012, but I had actually already been working for several years on projects funded by yourselves. From 2001 to 2006, I was a junior scientist in Professor Craig Robson’s lab at Newcastle University, working on projects funded by Worldwide Cancer Research. It was through your support that I was able to hone my craft as a cancer researcher. As a post-doctoral researcher still learning the ropes, your support really helped to get my career off the ground.

"This is a side of science that many people who support research don’t see. The money people like you raise not only helps find vital discoveries, but also nurtures the next generation of researchers so that we can continue to search for the answers to cancer."

What did support from Worldwide Cancer Research mean to you?

After working on those projects with Professor Robson, I was able to start my own group at Newcastle University and start putting together my own team of cancer researchers to tackle some of the questions we wanted to answer in breast and prostate cancer. Then, in 2012, I successfully applied for funding from Worldwide Cancer Research to pursue an interesting idea I had.

That application was important because you took a risk and allowed us to explore some intriguing results we had previously found in my lab. But what really sticks with me is the impact that this funding had on the lives of other people working for me at the time. I was able to hire Mark, a young post-doc who was in the same position I was 10 years ago. It’s a similar story, but being able to work on that research project helped Mark progress in his career, who now leads his own cancer research team at the University of Hull where he also teaches. Your support is so vital for the next generation of scientists.

What did your funding from Worldwide Cancer Research help you achieve scientifically?

One thing that’s always in the back of your mind when you start a project, is what impact you hope that work might have on patients. With your help, we were able to prove there are two enzyme in breast cancer cells that are critical for growth and development. We also found that if we manipulated the enzymes in a specific way, we could cause the cancer cells to die. The data we generated from the project you supported allowed us to pursue a programme that could lead to highly effective new drugs against breast and other cancers.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

Knowing that I can make a difference and help patients and their families. I’ve been in the field of cancer research for 20 years now and still the knowledge that so many people are diagnosed is a big driver for me to go to work.

"If you can make a difference in any way to help patients and their families, for me, that is a great thing about working in cancer research."

Even if that real clinical impact doesn’t happen for a long time, you know that what you’re working on could have a major positive benefit for generations to come. My team are all scientists working on discovery research, trying to understand the basic biology of cancer. But all the time we are moving forward with the understanding that what we are working on will have some translatable benefit for patients, even if that is years or decades down the line.

Do you have a message for all the supporters of Worldwide Cancer Research?

Without the time and effort people spend fundraising for Worldwide Cancer Research, not only would we not be able to do the fantastic research we do here in Newcastle, but careers like mine wouldn’t have been able to take off in the way they have. I’d like to express my sincerest gratitude to everybody that has donated to Worldwide Cancer Research over the years. Your efforts certainly mean the world to me.

 

Science Communications Manager

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