“Your legacy is planting seeds that will never see flower.
Your legacy is knowing that you’ve done better for the next generation. Your legacy is having the rebellious hope that the actions you take today will create a better society tomorrow”
Dame Deborah James
In April 2023, Deborah's family were pleased to announce the first round of funding which covers projects across Cancer Research UK, The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, Bowel Cancer UK and The Institute of Cancer Research.
Laying the foundations for new precision treatments that could stop cancer spreading
Stopping cancer from spreading is key to helping more people survive. 7 in 10 people who die of cancer do so because it has spread around their body. This spread is known as metastasis, and scientists don’t fully understand how it works.
Discovering how cancer spreads will unlock the next generation of treatments and technologies that can detect its earliest signs and even prevent it from happening.
We’re funding researchers who are using advanced mathematics to analyse a huge amount of clinical data from people with bowel cancer that has spread around their bodies.
They’re discovering how changes to the DNA of bowel cancer cells, and the healthy cells surrounding them, give cancer cells the ability to spread.
This work will produce the most comprehensive go-to dataset for bowel cancer researchers and could help scientists detect bowel cancer spread earlier and treat people affected by it more effectively.
Targeting microbes that might cause bowel cancer
Nearly 6 in 10 of the cells in your body are microbes like bacteria and fungi. Together, these trillions of different microbes that live in your body are called your microbiome.
The microbiome has key roles in keeping us healthy, and nowhere in the body has more microbes than our bowel. But the microbiome is delicately balanced – the presence of some types of bacteria is linked to several diseases.
Understanding the relationship between the microbiome and bowel cancer – and how the microbiome changes how a person with bowel cancer responds to treatment – could lead to new ways to prevent and treat bowel cancer.
There is an unexplained trend that is seeing bowel cancer rates in people aged under 50 increase – could a change in gut bacteria be the cause?
We’re helping fund a team of internationally leading scientists to bring their diverse skills to bear on this challenge. By analysing the microbiome of thousands of people from across the world, they’re transforming our understanding of how the microbiome influences bowel cancer.
They’ve already discovered a type of bacteria that increases the risk of bowel cancer in some people under 50, and they are exploring whether it might be possible to target this bacteria to reduce bowel cancer risk.
Using artificial intelligence and blood tests to detect the earliest signs of bowel cancer
Scientists can detect certain molecules in our blood – called biomarkers – to diagnose specific cancers. This approach has the potential to be cheaper and simpler than existing tests, which could enable health systems to screen more people for cancer.
Blood tests for cancer could also be less invasive than our current diagnostic tools, such as colonoscopies for bowel cancer, encouraging more people to attend their screening appointments.
While detecting cancer biomarkers in blood holds promise, the current state-of-the-art tests aren’t accurate enough and take too long to give results.
In London, Dr Oleg Blyuss is using the rich data that researchers collected during the UK Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening (UKCTOCS) to improve cancer blood tests.
UKCTOCS recruited over 200,000 women between 2001 and 2005 and collected a wide range of clinical and biomarker data on them over time. This unique resource recently became available for the first time, and Dr Blyuss is applying artificial intelligence (AI) technology to recognise patterns in data and make predictions based on those patterns.
New, advanced IR X-Ray machine at The Royal Marsden, offering enhanced imaging resolution that will allow more patients to be treated due to its advanced features.
Interventional radiology (IR) was an important part of Dame Deborah’s treatment at The Royal Marsden. IR uses imaging techniques to treat cancer in a minimally invasive way. Often used as an alternative to surgery, imaging methods such as real-time x-rays, ultrasound, CT or MRI scanning, are used to guide treatment directly to the cancer site.
The precision achieved dramatically reduces side effects and minimises damage to other organs and tissue located near tumours. The Bowelbabe Fund is pleased to be supporting the installation of a new, advanced IR X-Ray machine at The Royal Marsden, allowing them to continue to offer the most innovative treatment for even more cancer patients. It will also help support research at the hospital to help develop advanced targeted therapies for cancer.
Bowel cancer awareness roadshows and primary care education with Bowel Cancer UK
Nearly four in ten (38%) people in the UK can't name a single symptom of bowel cancer, despite the disease being the UK's fourth most common cancer.
Bowel Cancer UK is determined to improve that by creating and delivering an impactful awareness programme. We’ll roll out volunteer-led talks and a comprehensive awareness roadshow travelling the length and breadth of the UK, talking about bowel cancer risk, signs, symptoms, and the importance of screening. We’ll prioritise talking to older adults who don’t take part in screening, younger people with symptoms, people living in areas of social deprivation, and areas where people are less likely to survive a diagnosis of bowel cancer.
Alongside the awareness roadshows, we’ll help GPs and pharmacy staff across the UK to confidently have those all-important conversations with people about bowel cancer. By create e-learning modules, webinars, and face to face learning sessions we’ll build their knowledge on symptoms to look out for, risk factors, and the best way of ruling bowel cancer out first, and fast.
Funding from the Bowelbabe Fund will have a huge impact in communities hardest hit by poorer bowel cancer outcomes. It will also ensure we can support GPs to make swifter decisions and better referrals for diagnostic tests - or, put another way, to help them find those needles in the haystacks more quickly.