Sylvia and Ian: Fighting cancer together

24 Aug 2016

12 years ago, Sylvia’s husband Ian was diagnosed with cancer – lymphoma. Since then, they’ve been hosting a garden bake sale each year to raise funds for our Cancer Immunopathology Research fund, raising over £3,400 to date.

Now, Sylvia herself has been diagnosed with mesothelioma – a type of cancer commonly affecting the lungs, associated with exposure to asbestos in earlier life.

Sylvia can’t make her regular bake sale and coffee morning this year, so she’s fundraising through a “Non-Coffee Morning”. So far, she’s raised an amazing £2,400.

Here, she tells her story.

“I have cancer. So does my husband, Ian. His is lymphoma and mine is mesothelioma.

“St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London is a centre of excellence for both these cancers, and we have received the very best of treatment.

“It attracts the best surgeons, oncologists and researchers, and much valuable work is being done there to improve outcomes for patients.

“Ian and I have been raising money for Barts Charity by holding our famous annual Coffee Mornings in our house and garden, with home-made cakes and plants for sale, since Ian was diagnosed 12 years ago.

“Now that I’m fighting mesothelioma, which is a difficult disease resulting from inhaling asbestos fibres many years previously, and which involved two operations, one of which was six hours long, we can’t make the Coffee Morning this year.

“Please imagine that you’re in our beautiful garden at our Coffee Morning, on a lovely summer’s day, eating flapjacks and chatting with friends, and make a donation to Barts Charity’s mesothelioma research fund. Below is some more information on mesothelioma and the work at St Bartholomew’s.

“The research is crucial, as the chemotherapy currently available adds only two or three months to life expectancy. There has been very little research into mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases; they have been neglected in favour of more common cancers.

“Currently there is a trial combining immunotherapy and chemotherapy at St Bartholomew’s and a few selected hospitals. Unfortunately I’m not eligible for this trial, as my tumour size has been reduced considerably by surgery.

“It was a very complicated operation, involving the removal of the lining of the lung and the lining of the chest wall, and St Bartholomew’s is one of the few hospitals in the UK able to offer this surgery.

“So please help them continue with their ground-breaking work, and hopefully we’ll be able to make our Coffee Morning again next year.

“Whatever you’re able to give is much appreciated. Thank you.”

You can visit Sylvia’s JustGiving page here. Or to donate to our mesothelioma research fund directly, head to our donate page and specify “mesothelioma research” when donating.


Our mesothelioma research fund

Led by Dr Jeremy Steele and his team of doctors, nurses and laboratory researchers, the research aims to understand the biology of malignant mesothelioma.

Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related illnesses such as lung cancer and pleural plaques are increasing in incidence even though asbestos was little used after 1980. The problem is that there is a delay of between 30 and 50 years from the exposure to asbestos dust and the development of one of the diseases.

St Bartholomew’s is home to one of the largest outpatient clinics in the UK for patients with mesothelioma. Typically doctors there see two or three new patients weekly, as well as a large number of patients who have completed treatment and are being followed up. The team take a very positive view of treatment for mesothelioma and patients are treated as individuals.

Examples of Barts Charity-funded projects

Monocyte phenotypes prevalent in lung cancer

The aim of the research is to identify monocyte phenotypes prevalent in lung cancer and whether early changes in these phenotypes can predict response to chemotherapy as well as overall survival for patients with lung cancer. If we better understand chemotherapy response, then chemotherapy regimens can potentially be tailored to the individual patient.

ASS1 promoter methylation and response to ADI-PEG20 in the ADAM trial

Dr Steele’s team have conducted a randomised multicentre trial of a novel antimetabolite drug in patients with advanced malignant mesothelioma, called ADAM (Arginine deiminase and mesothelioma). The rationale is that mesotheliomas that are unable to make the amino acid arginine due to lack of an enzyme called ASS1 (Argininosuccinate synthetase) may be amenable to starvation using an arginine-lowering agent. Results so far have shown a 40% metabolic partial response rate. In this project, they will assess the amount of methylation in ASS1, which may increase their future selection of patients for arginine deprivation therapy. Second, they will build a tissue bank to validate several new genes which will enable further optimisation of this new anticancer therapy. Finally, they wish to address a potential hormone-driven (cytokine) resistance mechanism using mesothelioma cell lines.

For more information on mesothelioma, please visit the NHS website.

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