The Ralph Bates Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund

Newsletter December 2012

Well, it doesn’t seem that long since our last Newsletter in July/August. Time flies these days and it’s not just older guys like me who say it- even the “youngsters” say they don’t know where time goes.   So, it’s nearly Christmas!  The last time I looked, it was over two months to go and now it’s almost upon us!  

We’ve been busy lately and here’s an update.

Our new Patron- Sir Peter Blake.

We are very pleased to announce that Sir Peter Blake CBE,RDI,RA has agreed to be our Patron.  Virginia Bates, Ralph’s widow, has known Sir Peter for many years and he has been involved with our Fund since the early days.                    

In the late 1950s, Sir Peter became one of the best known English pop artists, having created the design for the sleeve for the Beatles’ album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”  which became an iconic work of pop art and which was much imitated. Since then, he has been involved in the design of many more pop album sleeves and his paintings have been featured in many exhibitions.     

Sir Peter became a Royal Academician in 1981, was awarded the CBE in 1983 and was knighted in 2002 for his services to art.   We look forward to working with Sir Peter to the benefit of our Fund.

Sir Peter also designed the cover of the programme for the “Dear Ralph” show held at the London Palladium on February 14 1993 in Ralph’s memory.   The event, which starred many actors and actresses who had known Ralph, was a great success and helped to establish our Fund. There was a  repeat show about a year later.  We still have some copies of the programme for the show, which Sir Peter has signed (bottom right hand corner of the front cover) . If you would like one- for a donation, of course!- let us know.  

And at last we have a new web site!  It’s far more user friendly than the original which supported us well for a number of years.   As before, you can access it at www.ralphbatespcr.org.uk.   We’ll be posting news about our Fund on a regular basis so make it one of your web favourites!

There have been many things happening in support of our Fund. Here are some;

Jamie Clarke is 11 years old. His aunt, who lives in the USA was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a couple of years ago and not long ago she was told the cancer had spread to her lungs with no hope of a cure. Jamie’s response to this devastating news was to run in the Big Fun Run in London’s Victoria Park in support of our Fund.

He also set up a Justgiving page in the USA and raised funds for the Lustgarden Foundation for Pancreatic Research. 

This is a tremendous gesture from someone so young and we are extremely grateful for his commitment and support.

When we received his donation, we sent an acknowledgement not realising Jamie’s age, but his “mom” Joanne, (she’s American living in the UK) replied by email to explain the circumstances.   Joanne- you must be very proud of Jamie!                                                                        

Sally Bayliss has been at it again! As we mentioned in the last Newsletter, Sally ran the Silverstone half marathon in March to support our Fund.  After recovering from the event, she set out to climb Cadir Iris in the Snowdonia National Park. Cader Iris is some 2927 feet high but Sally managed it with no trouble!  

Sally lost her husband, Simon, to pancreatic cancer a few years ago and actively supports our Fund.  Next year, she will again be running in the Silverstone half marathon and this time, her daughter Victoria (Tora for short) is running with her. We’ll keep you updated with a photo of the victorious pair in our next Newsletter but watch our web site for some up to the minute news!                                  

In November, the Sylvan Singers from Henfield in West Sussex held a concert and donated some of the proceeds to our Fund.   Many thanks to Elizabeth Kersey, their Secretary and Treasurer, for having arranged this kind and generous donation and to the choir for their dedication and efforts.  The “Sylvan Singers” is a small ladies choir and has donated many thousands of pounds to various charities by holding concerts.  

We have continued to support research at St. George’s University of London focused on protein control as a means of killing cancerous cells.  This work was put on hold earlier in the year but with the help of Immodulon Therapeutics Ltd ( www.immodulon.com) we have again been able to support this important research which has shown some promising results. We’ll have a full update in our next Newsletter.

Also at St. George’s, we continue to support research into the effect on cancerous cells of combinations of various drugs.   We have supported this research for many years and are pleased that there are some exciting results coming through. The research is under the direction of Prof. Gus Dalgleish, one of the foremost cancer specialists.  Gus prepared a summary for us detailing some of the milestones his team have achieved over the last few years. The salient points – it’s a little technical but well worth reading- are;

  • “The current gold standard treatment for pancreatic cancer is the drug    Gemcitabine.  Marked improvements were seen in patients in a clinical trial when the vaccine Mycobacterium was combined with Gemcitabine and the clinical trial has now been extended to patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.
  • One major discovery showed that Lenalidomide, a Thalidomide derived drug now approved for the treatment of myeloma, could reverse the inevitable resistance of cancerous cell lines when they are exposed to Gemcitabine. Again, clinical anecdotes suggest that this combination is very effective and very well tolerated by the patient.  Independently, Lenalidomide has also been shown to enhance responses to vaccines so combining it with other drugs is the next logical step.
  • Research has also shown that some very simple cheap and non-toxic agents have surprising activity against pancreatic cell lines. We published (International Journal of Cancer Feb 15 2007) that Doxycycline is able to induce cell death in pancreatic cells, which is very unexpected.Doxycycline is a broad spectrum antibiotic with marked anti-inflammatory activity which also inhibits enzymes expressed by tumour cells.   We have also screened a large number of Thalidomide analogues and found that two are very effective in pancreatic cancer cells.
  • In 2010 a colleague with metastatic pancreatic cancer had become resistant to Gemcitabine.  She was given Lenalidomide as well as Gemcitabine.  Within two years, not only was this cancer under control but the patient continued to lead a normal working life.  She also had the Mycobacterium vaccine on a compassionate basis and continued to receive all three agents, with the Gemcitabine being given in much reduced doses and much less frequently than standard protocols.  After four years of treatment she died of a non-related condition and at autopsy there was no evidence of her metastatic pancreatic cancer.  The most remarkable thing about this was the fact that the process was so slow, with only a 25% reduction in her tumour on the CT scan after two years.  An important lesson is that this combination of very low toxicity agents was able to eliminate pancreatic cancer.
  • We have explored how the immune system can be used to enhance anti-cancer activities, looked at cannabis derived substances, pursued the possibility that Curcumin (the herb Cumin) could work in pancreatic cancer – it’s already shown activity when treating colorectal cancer- and are exploring a new mechanism in the use of low dose Naltrexone. Naltrexone and Curcumen are available, non-toxic and cheap, unlike some other drugs which are expensive”. 

There is obviously no panacea for pancreatic cancer but it’s good to see that the research at St George’s is bearing fruit, albeit slowly. The full summary – it’s a little more technical but easy to read- can be viewed on our web site under “About the Fund”.

You may also remember that in October 2007, we funded the installation of Electronic Ultrasound (EUS) equipment in St George’s Endoscopy unit. This equipment helped to diagnose many cases of pancreatic cancer in its early stages.  The success of the installation, which made St George’s a referral centre for a large catchment area of patients, has prompted the local NHS Trust to purchase the latest EUS equipment with updated and enhanced software and this is working side by side with our donated equipment. It’s good to know that our – and your – efforts are appreciated!

The dedication of the various research teams is amazing as it’s a long and complicated route to find the answers they are looking for.  They not only have to overcome the potentially demotivating effect of unwanted results in some aspects of their research but have to contend with hospital funding cut backs, ethical restrictions and general bureaucracy.   But they persevere and we are thankful for their dedication!

Thank you for reading this Newsletter. The season’s greetings to each of you and may you all have a prosperous and healthy New Year.  

Once again, many thanks for your support.

The Trustees.

December 2012.

 

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