The Ralph Bates Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund

Summer 2021 Newsletter

A year ago, none of us could have imagined what we have all had to face. Hopefully, you and your families are all well and have not suffered from this terrible virus. What a tremendous job the NHS and the vaccination teams have done! We will all be eternally grateful for the hard work put in by all NHS workers and the many volunteers who have given up their time.

But one of the major downsides of the pandemic is the devastating effect on cancer diagnosis and treatment. In a recent report *, Macmillan Cancer Care estimates “that across the UK there are currently around 50,000 ‘missing diagnoses’ – meaning that compared to a similar time frame last year, 50,000 fewer people have been diagnosed with cancer. We are deeply worried about these many thousands of people who have cancer but have not yet been diagnosed because they are too frightened or too worried to visit their GP; because they are waiting too long for investigative tests; or because they haven’t received an invitation to routine screening. We also know there are many people waiting anxiously for their first treatment to start, as well as those who already have a cancer diagnosis and are in need of crucial follow up scans, tests and treatments”.

It’s difficult to generalise, but if you or anyone you know experiences any of the following symptoms of pancreatic cancer, it’s essential that contact is made with a GP or hospital without delay;

• Yellow skin or eyes and/or itchy skin. This is called “jaundice”.
• Unexplained weight loss.
• Tummy pain, especially at the top of the abdomen, which may radiate to the back, or unexplained mid-back pain.
• Bowel changes such as oily, floating faeces (stools).

Remember – pancreatic cancer doesn’t discriminate between sexes or care how old you are.

*With acknowledgements to Macmillan Cancer Care. Full report available at

Once again, sincere thanks to each of you from all the Trustees for your support. Our important research wouldn’t be possible without your kind donations. All Charities have suffered from lower donations during this pandemic – we’re no exception – and unfortunately, the situation is unlikely to improve until things get back to normal.

To those of you who signed up to Amazon Smile and nominated our Charity- thanks!    We’ve had some donations from the Fund already.   “AmazonSmile” offers the same products as the main Amazon site, the difference being that Amazon pays a donation to the purchaser’s selected Charity on many of the products they sell on the AmazonSmile site.   It all adds up and it costs you nothing extra.   Our Fund is registered with AmazonSmile and can be selected as your chosen Charity on the checkout page of the website – if you decide to choose us!

We’ve also had donations from a Giving Fund run by Paypal, having been nominated by one (or some) of their users. If you nominated us, many thanks!

At St. George’s, University of London, our research was able to restart in full in February.   Earlier in the lockdown, team members did what they could by analysing data and carrying out mini projects on cancer cells. Dr Androulla Elia, our research leader, took the opportunity to interview candidates for the Research Assistant role and selected Ella Rimmer.

Androulla – on the right- is a Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences and is Academic Lead for Biomedical Sciences Employability at St George’s, as well as managing our research, which she’s been doing since 2008. She found time recently to pen this article for us;

“Pancreatic cancer is an aggressive tumour type and there are many researchers looking at the complex way in which these cancer cells behave. Here at St George’s, University of London, our research is funded by the Ralph Bates Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund. Using these funds, we have previously published research data to show thatusing a drug known as TRAIL in combination with gemcitabine, is more effective at killing tumour cells than gemcitabine alone. This is promising for potential future treatments. Gemcitabine is the standard treatment for pancreatic cancer.

However, we also found that some pancreatic cancer cells do not respond to this treatment. To find out why, we have used a new and exciting technique called CRISPR (the developers of which won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry this year). This allowed us to identify proteins that are potentially important in resistance to our treatment.

In February 2021, using a new round of funding received from the Charity we have been able to recruit a research assistant, Ella Rimmer who has been working on this project and will continue to do so until next Summer 2022.

Ella first worked on this project back in 2017-18 when she was a placement student from the University of Bath. Following graduation, she completed her MRes in Cancer Biology at Imperial College London. Although our working environment has changed during the last year because of COVID-19 restrictions, Ella and I have been able to undertake research safely and look forward to publishing our new data.

Your donations have made this research possible as well as helping to develop the career of a young scientist. We are always willing to help to raise funds to allow Ella to undertake a PhD on this project, thus allowing the research to develop over a longer period of three years and to help us underpin the mechanisms involved in this therapy

further.  We value tremendously our relationship with the Ralph Bates Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund and, hopefully, that relationship can continue for many years to come to allow us to defeat a most aggressive illness”.

Thanks Androulla.

Finances permitting, we’re hoping that we’ll be able to support Androulla and Ella after Summer 2022, as it’s vital that their research continues.

Recently, there’s been more media comment about Charity Trustees and senior Management being paid high salaries and expenses.   It’s not up to us to criticise what others do, but it’s worth-while reiterating that none of the Trustees of our Fund is remunerated and none claim expenses.     As you can tell from this Newsletter, we don’t spend your hard-earned donations on fancy glossy leaflets and gimmicks, as we feel that publications like this get the message across just as well!

Please stay safe and once again, many thanks for your support.

The Trustees. June 2021

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