Monday, 26 October 2015

Legacies are vital in helping to fund the work that we do and the projects that we support - Ellen Hingley

Ellen Hingley - Legacy and Research Manager

Ellen Hingley
As legacy and research manager for The Christie charity, I have the pleasure of dealing with some of the most interesting and unexpected gifts that come into the charity every day.

Legacy gifts, those which are left in wills, have been an important part of the history of The Christie providing half of the original £10,000 needed to set the hospital up, and today they are vital in helping to fund the work that we do and the projects that we support.

Most recently our team has been working with an auction house based in Surrey, organising the auction of a collection of more than 20,000 prints and negatives left to us by renowned photographer Harry Goodwin who passed away following a short illness in 2013.

Harry was the official photographer for Top of the Pops from 1964 to 1973. Throughout his career Harry photographed the likes of The Beatles, Michael Jackson, David Beckham and many more pop, sporting and acting heroes. Alongside a monetary gift of £54,000, Harry generously decided to leave the majority of his photographic collection to The Christie.

This Friday, 30th October, at midday, anyone worldwide will be able to bid on pieces from the collection, the entire proceeds of which will come to The Christie. We're hoping to raise around £20,000 from the sale, so I'd encourage anyone interested in the collection to take a look.
The Beatles.jpg

One of the photos up for auction
Legacy gifts have long been an important source of funding for many charities, but it's only in recent years that charities have really started talking to people about them and letting people know how important they are. Research suggests that of those people who have written a will, around 17% have included a gift to a charity. Here at The Christie, we rely on gifts in wills for around one third of our charitable income each year, that's about £5 million a year.

My job is to talk to people about legacy gifts, and to promote them as a simple and empowering way to support a cause that you care about, well into the future. Understandably, when people think about wills and legacies, they often think about death, but in my job it's important to remember that wills are really about planning for the future. A will is the safest way to ensure that your money and property are left to those that you care about, whether that's family, friends, charities, or all three! When we talk to people about wills, it's important for us to let them know how grateful we are for any size of gift they might decide to leave to us, and that we really hope we won't receive it for many years to come.

In 2014, over 140 people took part in Make a Will Week, and helped us raise over £13,000. Nineteen people also took the opportunity to leave us a gift in their will, and were kind enough to let us know. This year's Will Week, which took place from 14th to 18th September was supported by 50 solicitors across the North West, and people making wills have already donated very generously in lieu of paying solicitors fees, so I'm hoping this campaign will be at least as successful, if not more so than last year.

It's a wonderful opportunity to make or update your will, whilst supporting The Christie, so you'll be pleased to hear we've already set the date for next year.

To see the full Harry Goodwin auction collection and register to bid on the items, visit . If you would like to learn more about gifts left in wills to The Christie or next year's Make a Will Week, you can contact me on 0161 446 3178 or email .

Monday, 19 October 2015

The gamma camera is making a big difference to the diagnosis and treatment of many Christie patients - David Hamiliton

David Hamiliton - Consultant Clinical Scientist and Group Leader in Nuclear Medicine

David Hamilton

Patients at The Christie are now benefitting from a state-of-the art gamma camera, thanks to the generosity of dozens of dedicated Christie supporters.

I am delighted to have been part of the Nuclear Medicine team which has delivered this exciting project and which seems to have really captured the support of many of our hard working fundraisers.

So, it was with great pleasure that we were able to invite many of our gamma camera fundraisers to a unique behind the scenes tour of the new facilities in the Nuclear Medicine department.

They were welcomed by our Chief Executive, Roger Spencer, and were given a presentation by Dr Prakash Manoharan, Clinical Lead, who explained how important their contribution will be for the pioneering work being undertaken in the department and with The University of Manchester.

The staff in the Nuclear Medicine department have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm with which fundraisers have supported this project and were delighted to demonstrate for them the equipment that they have provided.

Nuclear medicine is a branch of radiology which produces images of radioactive pharmaceuticals that have been injected into the patient. These show function in different parts of the body rather than anatomy and are therefore very sensitive to changes caused by disease.

A gamma camera detects the gamma photon emissions from the radiopharmaceuticals which clearly reveal abnormal areas, including tumours.

This state-of-the art camera at The Christie will help us give patients a better diagnosis and better understanding of the staging of their cancer. We also have exciting plans to use it to provide better therapy in the future.

The gamma camera is a SPECT camera, which stands for Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography.

Just like in radiology, the patient does not feel the gamma photon emissions that are coming from their body, but the images they create clearly show the processes going on inside the body.

The individual areas that accumulate the radiopharmaceuticals can be very difficult to identify precisely, and the gamma camera incorporates a diagnostic quality CT scanner to overcome this.

The SPECT and the CT images are fused together by the computer. This helps the radiologist to view the two different images easily and manipulate both separately to reveal different details.

As well as accurately locating the cancer in anatomical structures, the CT also helps to identify what abnormal areas are. The patient only has to be scanned once as two types of image are being acquired in one procedure.

The new equipment incorporates advanced systems that allow best quality images to be acquired and links the two types of image together automatically with a very high degree of precision.

Christie patients are already benefiting from this significant improvement in image quality, as well as monitoring of the progress of any therapy provided.

Staff involved in the gamma camera project 
As well as providing diagnostic information, the gamma camera is used to show exactly which areas of the body are being treated when therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals are administered (a procedure called molecular radiotherapy).

This is a type of therapy where the radiopharmaceutical seeks out the disease areas in the body and delivers therapy in precisely the right place to kill the cancer. New medicines of this type have recently become available, and many more patients are now being given this new type of therapy. The Christie has a particularly large molecular radiotherapy capability and facilities are constantly being expanded and improved.

Tumours accumulate these medicines and retain them for varying times, with different radiation doses being delivered to different tumour areas.

By taking a number of images using the new gamma camera over a period of time, the level of the therapy in different areas of the body can be mapped to ensure the patient is getting the best treatment and that the dose given is not having adverse effects on healthy tissue.

The calculations involved in converting the gamma camera images to therapy maps are very complex and the new SPECT / CT system includes an internal radiation dosimetry computer to make these automatically.

The Christie is working very closely with The University of Manchester to improve the accuracy of these calculations using this equipment.

This work will eventually allow personal therapy plans to be produced for patients undergoing some types of molecular radiotherapy, which will mean that their tumours get the most effective therapy and that normal tissues are protected.

There is no doubt that this is a very exciting time to be working in nuclear medicine at The Christie and my work on the gamma camera has been hugely rewarding.

I am delighted that so many fundraisers have enthusiastically backed this project and was delighted to show them the tangible progress we have made. The gamma camera will make a huge difference to the diagnosis and therapy of many Christie patients in the future and will hopefully help thousands to successfully beat theircancer.

The Christie charity supports the work of The Christie NHS Foundation Trust through its fundraising activities, and delivers projects, equipment and improvements that are over and above what the NHS funds. The charity has over 30,000 supporters who helped raise   £13.3m last year.  

Monday, 12 October 2015

Treatment outcomes of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are all improved for patients who stop smoking and drinking alcoho - Charlotte Finchettl

Charlotte Finchett - Health Promotion Advisor
Charlotte Finchett - 
Health Promotion Advisor

As many people will know, October is Stoptober and there have been lots of adverts on the TV featuring the likes of Al Murray and Bill Bailey encouraging people to give up smoking.

We all know that smoking and drinking to excess are bad for our health. And if you have cancer it can even slow down or harm your recovery and limit your chances of a good long term recovery. That's why I find my role at The Christie as a Health Promotion Advisor so rewarding. I know I can make a real difference to people's lives.

Let me tell you about a 61 year old (let's call him Tom) who was due to start chemotherapy treatment at the beginning of 2015. When I first met Tom, he explained that he had been drinking 80 units of alcohol a week (the recommended weekly allowance for a man is three to four units per day if drinking on a regular basis). As I sat and listened to him, it became apparent that he was not really upset about his cancer diagnosis, but that his wife had left him through his ongoing alcohol problem.

We talked about his alcohol history, how much he drank and came up with a plan to reduce his alcohol intake. We contacted his GP to provide further help and support with reducing his alcohol consumption and his current home-life situation. The GP was very supportive and arranged an urgent appointment with Tom. I am happy to finish Tom's story by saying his wife is back living with him and she is supporting him through his cancer treatment.

Being able to help Tom and hundreds of others like him is what makes my job at The Christie so fulfilling.

I started working at The Christie in the medical records team, the day after I completed my last school exams back in June 1988. I have been fortunate to undertake various roles since then, including working in radiotherapy, and now as a Health Promotion Advisor. I feel honoured to work at such a valued organisation with such caring and approachable staff and am very lucky to be supported by a wide variety of health professionals.

The experiences I have gained in these previous roles have allowed me to gain an in-depth understanding how we treat patients at The Christie, the process they go through and what they experience when undergoing treatment for cancer. This knowledge and experience enables me to be an effective Health Promotion Advisor, supporting patients to live a healthier life, through their cancer treatment and beyond.

Treatment outcomes of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are all improved for patients who stop smoking and drinking alcohol. For example, smoking and alcohol can increase the impact of side effects during treatment, which in turn impacts on how well the patient can tolerate their treatment.

Patients who smoke and undergo surgery can take longer to recover due to the lower levels of oxygen within the blood. And, for patients with head and neck cancer, giving up smoking has a much greater impact on survival.

As a health promotion advisor I work with and support patients to make lifestyle changes with the aim of improving their treatment and recovery. I discuss smoking cessation and alcohol awareness with patients, carers and their families, and provide the relevant interventions they need to make changes. These can range from providing hypnotherapy to offering nicotine patches.

Some patients may not want to stop smoking, but whilst they are an inpatient they may not be able to leave the ward, so nicotine replacement is an option. Patients are encouraged to make their own choice and are given information about nicotine replacement.

Supporting patients emotionally and holistically is the key to any kind of therapy. Commonly patients have several concerns alongside their cancer diagnosis. For example, they may have financial concerns or have little social support. And it is important to remember that people smoke and drink for many reasons, such as stress. What I find is that they have associated the smoking habit with relaxation, as they are usually sitting down, relaxing, and taking time out from their day. I need to understand these reasons and understand how hard it is to make lifestyle changes so that I can identify all the support measures that are needed to help our patients through this process and ensure that everything possible is in place for them.

As a former smoker myself, I totally understand how difficult it is to change your behaviour and give up.

I'm so fortunate to part of The Christie's award winning complementary therapy team, led by the visionary Peter Mackereth. I feel supported by my manager Paula Maycock to go the extra mile to help our patients and am privileged to work closely with several departments, dedicated staff such as Professor Nick Slevin and Dr Andrew Sykes and the wider multi-disciplinary teams in place throughout The Christie. There are too many individuals to name, however staff at The Christie always go above and beyond the call of duty to put our patients and their families and carers first.

I can't even begin to tell you how wonderful it is to see patients smoke free and enjoying other ways of spending their money.

During the summer, I was speaking to a carer (let's call him Greg) who wanted to support his wife's smoking cessation by also stopping smoking himself. Greg explained that he used to ride his motorbike, but was unable to use it at the moment due to it being broken. He decided to save the money he would have spent on smoking to fix his motorbike - whilst supporting his wife. I saw him a few weeks ago and he and his wife are now smoke free and he got his bike fixed with the money that he saved.

Being able to help people like Tom and Greg are what drives me in my job. The difference it makes to people's lives is phenomenal.

Having cancer is a very difficult time for patients and their families or carers, but I know that if we support our patients to reduce their intake of alcohol and smoking it will improve the outcome of their treatment.

The patients are very receptive to talking with me and very grateful of the support that we provide. Every day is a different day but I enjoy it more and more. It is never too late make a lifestyle change. We are changing lives and supporting patients.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Forever hopeful - Manchester Cancer Research Centre - Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor - Christie patient

Jo Taylor
This summer I was honoured to be asked by Cancer Research UK to attend the opening of the new £28.5 million centre located across from The Christie, where I attend as a patient. I want to give you a feel for what happened on the day and what the fuss is all about.

The name of the campaign that the building was built for was the 'More tomorrows' campaign.

The Manchester Cancer Research Centre's (MCRC) main aim is to build a better quality of life for patients and families.

On arrival I meet Ali Barbuti from CRUK, Clare Dickinson from The Christie and Katy Holiday from MCRC.

I was delighted to meet Clare Callaghan @keepsmilingcsc who is surviving womb cancer and whom I was already following on Twitter. I also met Matt Dillon who blogs at and has a Facebook page about his experience with brain cancer. Matt had just finished radiotherapy for a reoccurrence and a week later was starting chemotherapy before flying back to his home in Australia. Good luck Matt with your treatment, thinking about you.

The day started with a video by Professor Nick Jones, who introduced the building and why there was collaboration between The Christie, Cancer Research UK and the University of Manchester. The main ethos is to drive personal medicine. New drugs rates are low and they want to match patients to the correct drugs that work for them. There was a BRCA 2 gene patient story where someone was being offered a choice of different treatments due to this new work.

The building is world class, bringing scientists, clinicians and other professionals together in one building to share information, learning and science.

There are five labs with different cancers being studied in each of them. Communication is key to developing new drugs which will be helped by bringing new talents together under one roof, which is why the MRCR will work so amazingly well. One example given was that there has been little impact on melanoma over the last 40 years but there are new treatments now coming through that have arisen through collaborations. There has also been research on small cell lung cancer and clinical trials to help patients live longer.

MCRC building

PhD students at the research centre will be trained in the labs by world leading professionals. The MCRC is trailblazing by bringing scientists and clinicians together in one place.

In his presentation, Dr Allan Jordan advised that Manchester was THE best place to do work in cancer research and they are hoping to continue this with the new building.

In 1970, only 25% survived a diagnosis of cancer. Now, the cancer survival rate across the board has increased to 50%. Improving quality of life and overall survival are what researchers and clinicians are striving for.

Local statistics in the North West show that the death rates in Manchester total 35,000 people who die with cancer each year. The most prevalent diseases are breast, lung, bowel and prostate. Even though they are concentrating on these they are also looking at other cancers that may not be as common but may warrant research.

There were amazing facts and figures about your body. Did you know that in just one minute the body has made 300 million new red blood cells? We were told to hold our little fingers because there are more cells in your little finger than there have been people in the world! Mind blowing.

We need cells for growth, healing and making new cells. The reason why cancer happens is that there is an accumulation of faults. This can be due to the DNA, carcinogens, natural cell progressions, inheritance or a virus.

What the MCRC are trying to do is to help improve care by better understanding cancer - with better clinical understanding, better application of this understanding, and better clinical trials.

During the open day we also heard more about the history of The Christie. The hospital was 'born' in 1892 and was called "the home for the incurables" it was the first hospital outside London for the treatment of cancer. The Christie was named after Philanthropists Mr and Mrs Christie.

Interestingly, there was a development of a new practice called radiotherapy. The Christie had to buy lead radium and local brewery Joseph Holt helped to fund the purchase of radium so you can say that radiotherapy was originally was funded by beer! Cheers!

Manchester became world famous for its approach to radiotherapy through the use of the 'The Manchester Method' in the 1930s.

In 1969, Tamoxifen was a surprise discovery from work on oral contraceptives by three researchers. It went into clinical trials at The Christie with 46 patients as a targeted therapy. Ten patients showed immediate response and tumour shrinkage. This was the first clinical trial and the first real targeted therapy.

Manchester is also the first UK centre of excellence for prostate cancer research.

There are many new professionals that have been brought together from around the world to work at this new building and they will benefit from having access to one of the world's biggest early phase clinical trials unit across the road at The Christie. Did you know to get a new drug to market costs between $800m - $1300m? That's a staggering amount of money.

The NHS is an amazing community for being able to work with specialist cancer hospitals for clinical trials due to the amount of people that are in the system in the UK. This, we are told, is what is different to other countries around the world that have private healthcare. Many hospitals work in isolation. The NHS helps all patients across the board to get into trials. There are over 2400 patients participating in 400 different trials at The Christie this year.

An amazing story was about using a compound that was patented in Barcelona and two scientists chatting over a beer (cheers again - there seems to be a pattern developing…) helped to speed up the drug's use. This resulted in the drug being able to go into early trial instead of the usual lengthy approval process. This trial was for acute myeloid leukaemia and it has been very successful.

MCRC is able to provide cancer genome sequencing at a cost of £1500 now, instead of the huge amount of money it used to cost. Doctors will have the patient's gene sequence overnight after a sample of their tumour has been analysed.

It is important that MCRC collaborates around the world and fosters collaborations with other hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. There are around 30 new professional people employed working together bringing great minds together from all over the world. The Christie, Cancer Research UK and The University of Manchester are working together as partners, giving strength to cover huge areas in cancer research.

The presentation was extremely interesting and highlighted just what an amazing place Manchester is and the hope for the future of cancer treatment.

I for one was blown away by what Manchester has done and is still doing for the world, in relation to cancer treatments and therapies. Dr Allan Jordan provided a brilliant insight as to what they were doing. Thank you so much for this.

We were treated to a tour around the building and through the labs upstairs at the MCRC. It was very emotional to think that these pristine, white, empty (apart from chairs, tables and microscopes) labs will be a hub of activity soon when scientists and clinicians are moved into them to actually work. Not just that, but we could be standing in the exact lab that they find a cure for cancer in or for a specific cancer or specific treatment for a type of cancer.

At the MCRC they have seating and workspace areas all around for colleagues to work and talk to promote open discussions about what they are doing and a large cafe area for them to sit in and chat. It does seem very much like the 'Apple' of the science world and similar to these new start-up companies that work, chat and socialise together. It's a hugely exciting time for everyone involved.

Regan and Faron at the MCRC
On the following Saturday we returned as a family so my children Regan and Faron could see the building and have an understanding of what goes on in science. They were shown by a scientist how to extract DNA from a strawberry and we still have this in our fridge. I must say that Jeff and the children were completely blown away and it hopefully has fuelled an interest in the children into science. Who knows what the future holds.

If this is the way forward then they must be encouraged to do whatever they need to do to help these amazing minds unlock the secrets of cancer which will bring hope to all cancer patients.

Manchester is an amazing place that I'm hugely proud of and I'm sure that these advances in medicine will continue.

Thank you so much for inviting me to look around and to meet you all, it was an amazing experience and I look forward to hearing about great new discoveries in the near future!

I'm forever hopeful.

Jo runs a website to support primary and secondary breast cancer patients at and can be contacted via Twitter at @abcdiagnosis or followed on Facebook at