27th May 2022

Dreams, Dedication and … Disney? Turning research concepts into reality

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‘’If you can dream it, you can do it.’’

Walt Disney

Few people have ever made more dreams come true than the creator of Disneyland, so he clearly knew what he was talking about.

Our charity also began with a dream, one shared by the two men – our founder, Prof Ray Donnelly and the late, great, entertainer, Roy Castle himself.

They both recognised that research was the key to tackling lung cancer, saving lives and improving outcomes. They dreamt of building the world’s first centre dedicated specifically to lung cancer research, and thanks to the astonishing generosity of so many people, they made that dream a reality.

The Roy Castle Research Centre building was completed in 1997, but quickly outgrew its original site. Nowadays, lung cancer research is carried out in laboratories, institutes and universities right across the globe.

This year marks what would have been Roy Castle’s 90th birthday, but his legacy lives on. Nowhere is it more tangible than in the many research projects we fund. From the very start, our priorities have been early detection and improving the patient experience.

The task of deciding which applications to support lies with the people who make up our Research Grants Committee. This consists of eight professionals, all experts in lung cancer, two lay members, and the Chair.

Our latest layman recruit is Cameron Millar, who brings special insight to the role, as he was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2020.   

‘’That was a complete shock’’, he admits. ‘’But then I was then diagnosed as ALK-positive, so I can have targeted therapy. All of a sudden, my life was extended by years. I feel incredibly grateful for modern medicine.

‘’I’m really excited to be on the Research Grants Committee. Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation has the brand, it has the name, it’s well-known, so I want to be involved.

‘’These days we’re seeing a big percentage of people with lung cancer whose disease is not linked to smoking. We’re looking at, what, 28% or so? And it could even be higher than that, because not every patient is getting the genomic testing when they’re diagnosed because they don’t fit the profile. That needs to change.

‘’More and more genetic mutations or re-arrangements are being identified as potential targets for therapies. We’ve seen during the pandemic just how quickly the scientific community can swing into action when they work in a coordinated way. We need to see more of that in the field of lung cancer.’’

Cameron brings extensive knowledge of working with others to represent the best interest of patients within medical structures.

‘’I’m on the board of the NCRI, I’m a Patient Trustee, so I represent cancer patients right across the UK. I put on my patient hat and listen to what’s going on and think, yes, this is interesting.

‘’It takes an army of patent advocates to make an impact, I think. There are a lot of patients, and people who care for them, all keen to do something, but they just don’t know which way to go, they don’t know how to do it, so we have to be coordinated and work together.’’

Cameron is right; the challenge is clear.

We are proud that, even throughout the difficult days of the past two years, we continued to fund research projects at universities and institutions across the UK. Several are now nearing conclusion. Often this will result in publication of findings in a prestigious scientific journal, allowing the work to be accessed, evaluated, and shared by scientists worldwide.  

Research is all about adding to our store of knowledge, piece by piece, building on the data and learnings shared by others.  

With people like Cameron aboard, there will be no shortage of dedication in assessing applications for our research funding to help make dreams come true.