Our history

Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation has its roots in a charity founded by chest surgeon, Professor Ray Donnelly, who recognised the enormity of the challenge posed by lung cancer, and the need to address it.

Professor Ray Donnelly
Professor Ray Donnelly

He recalls those early days:

“I will never forget the day or the time. It was a dull, cloudy afternoon on Wednesday 18th April 1990. The meeting started at 4 o’clock. I was sitting in my office at the Cardiothoracic Centre in Liverpool with my secretary Sheila Christian and one of my patients, Eric Morris. I had just finished operating and was still in my theatre clothes.

I outlined to them my concerns about the huge problem of lung cancer … and about the complete lack of any fundamental research into the disease in our universities and hospitals. I felt we had a great opportunity and therefore a responsibility to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the development of the disease, its prevention and eventual elimination. Lung cancer was present in large numbers in our community and I was seeing up to twelve new cases every week, for most of whom I could do very little.

I had been thinking about this for several months and the purpose of the meeting was to establish a new charity, wholly dedicated to the study of lung cancer in all its aspects. I set out the objectives of the charity in research, patient support and smoking prevention and these have remained virtually unaltered to this day. Considering we had no money or institutional support our aims were very ambitious. We called the charity the Lung Cancer Fund.

From that first formal meeting we made rapid progress with support especially from my patients. The media in Liverpool supported us from the beginning and we were launched publicly in 1991. The same year we launched on the Isle of Man.

We raised enough money to begin funding research in the University of Liverpool, to appoint a Schools Liaison Officer and to appoint the first ever lung cancer support nurse”.
From that moment the charity had its mission, its objectives and its priorities firmly in place, and they remain at the core of all we do to the present day.

“The care and support of those afflicted by this devastating disease will always have great importance in the life of this unique Foundation.”

Professor Ray Donnelly

In late 1991 Professor Donnelly carried out the first removal of a lung cancer by keyhole surgery which brought international publicity and boosted the status and support of the charity.

Two years later, it was revealed that the multi-talented entertainer, musician, actor and television presenter Roy Castle had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

Professor Donnelly recalls how Roy came to be involved with our cause:

“In 1993 I put together my ideas for an international research facility in Liverpool and it was then that we went to Roy Castle and asked for his help. His response was magnificent and, although he was dying, we arranged a ‘Tour of Hope’ by special train around the UK which raised over £1m in three days during July 1994”.

Roy Castle on his Tour of Hope

At each of the towns and cities where the train stopped, Roy and his wife Fiona would emerge to entertain thousands of people who turned out to hail his talent and his bravery and offer contributions to our cause.

As Professor Donnelly adds, “His contribution to our development cannot be exaggerated. He was with us for only eight months but in that time, he captured the hearts of the nation. He is still very fondly remembered.

After Roy died [on 2nd September 1994] I proposed to the trustees that we should put his name on to the charity and so we became the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation”.

Everyone involved with the Foundation deeply appreciates all that Roy and his family did for us.

“This is not for me – this is for our children and our children’s children.”

Roy Castle

The Research Centre was finished in 1997 and it bears Roy’s name to this day, although on Merseyside, lung cancer research has now moved to the new Life Sciences department of the University of Liverpool.

The charity now funds several lung cancer research projects every year at institutions and facilities across the UK and Ireland.

Also in 1997, the Foundation opened its patient information and support office in Professor Donnelly’s home town of Glasgow.

The charity is now the largest supplier of information and literature on lung cancer to the NHS and have developed over 50 patient support groups across the UK.

From our offices in Liverpool and Glasgow we also provide the Secretariat to the Global Lung Cancer Coalition, a patient advocacy organisation which now embraces 42 lung cancer associations in 30 different countries.

We ‘led the charge’ in the campaign to have smoking banned in work places. That came into force in the various parts of the UK between 2006 and 2007 – a move that will undoubtedly contribute to saving many thousands of lives for generations to come.

We are proud to be at the forefront of proving that early detection programmes using CT scans can indeed pick up cases of lung cancer and save lives (see here for details of our Nottingham Project).

The Foundation continues to celebrate Roy Castle’s life, his valour and his dedication, by funding world-class research projects that investigate two main areas:

  • early detection of lung cancer – if diagnosed at an early stage, it is possible to offer patients treatment with curative intent
  • patient experience – making sure that people living with lung cancer can live as well as possible for as long as possible

Roy’s legacy is at the heart of all we do

The charity provides services across the whole of the UK and has an international role. Its many activities include:

  • Representing the interests of lung cancer patients and their families on national bodies such as NICE and the Scottish Medicines Authority; the organisations which evaluate new drugs and therapies and decide whether they should be offered to NHS patients
  • Offering first-class independently audited information and support services for patients and families, and funds world-class scientific research projects across the UK
  • Campaigning on behalf of people with lung cancer and to protect public health; to raise awareness of the disease, its signs and symptoms, and all the issues that surround lung cancer
  • Offering a free nurse-led helpline for people with lung cancer, an online quit-support service for people who want to stop smoking, and plays a key role in an online lung cancer community via ‘Health Unlocked’
  • Working with employers to improve staff awareness of lung cancer and its signs and symptoms