A fund set up by Dame Deborah James has raised more than £11 million, with Cancer Research UK saying it is a powerful testament to how many lives she touched
The Bowelbabe cancer research fund set up by Dame Deborah James has raised £11.3 million, it has been announced.
Cancer Research UK said it is now distributing funds to new projects aimed at advancing research into the disease after donations topped £11 million since the fund was launched last May.
Dame Deborah was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2016 at the age of 35 and became an outspoken campaigner, encouraging people to check for signs of the deadly disease.
She launched the Bowelbabe fund last May to raise money for research into personalised medicine for cancer patients. It passed £1 million in less than 24 hours.
At the same time, she announced she was receiving end-of-life care and would be looked after at her parents’ home in Surrey.
The mother-of-two, who was made a Dame by the then Duke of Cambridge for her fundraising efforts, died last June aged 40.
On Wednesday, Cancer Research UK announced the initial research projects that will receive Bowelbabe funding.
One study will look at laying the foundations for new precision treatment that could stop bowel cancer spread. It will be led by Professor Trevor Graham, director of the Centre for Evolution and Cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research, London.
Another project, involving a team of leading scientists, will look at targeting microbes that might cause bowel cancer.
This team has already discovered a type of bacteria that increases the risk of bowel cancer in some people under 50 and is exploring whether it might be possible to target these bacteria to reduce bowel cancer risk.
A further project, led by Dr Oleg Blyuss from Queen Mary University of London, will look at using artificial intelligence and blood tests to detect the earliest signs of cancer.
At the Royal Marsden cancer hospital in London, an advanced IR X-ray machine will also offer better imaging resolution that will allow more patients to be treated.
The projects announced on Wednesday, collectively totalling around £4 million, are the first round of funding, with more projects due to be confirmed later this year.
Dame Deborah’s husband, Sebastien Bowen, said: “I’m immensely proud and humbled to continue the work that Deborah started.
“As a family, we’ve been overwhelmed by all the support the fund has received, and to raise £11.3 million is just incredible.
“We’ve taken some time to select the first round of funded projects, and are pleased to announce them today.
“There is some fantastic, cutting-edge bowel cancer research and brilliant awareness activity taking place, and we know that Deborah would be behind this every step of the way.”
Chief executive of Cancer Research UK Michelle Mitchell said: “Dame Deborah James was a force of nature, doing all she could to raise awareness, fundraise and campaign.
“The overwhelming support the fund has received is a true testament to how many lives she touched.
“We’re deeply honoured to be working with Deborah’s family to continue her legacy through the Bowelbabe Fund and are grateful to everyone who has donated.
“The fund will be fuelled by Deborah’s spirit of rebellious hope, and the projects announced today are the first step in continuing Dame Deborah’s legacy to bring hope for a better future for people affected by cancer.”
The fund will continue to raise as much money as possible, Cancer Research UK said.
What are the symptoms of bowel cancer?
According to the NHS, the three main symptoms of bowel cancer are:
persistent blood in your poo – that happens for no obvious reason or is associated with a change in bowel habit
a persistent change in your bowel habit – which is usually having to poo more and your poo may also become more runny
persistent lower, bloating or discomfort – that's always caused by eating and may be associated with loss of appetite and weight
The NHS says most people with these symptoms do not have bowel cancer. Other health problems can cause similar symptoms such as a change in diet or haemorrhoids.
However, the NHS recommends seeing your GP if you have had any of these symptoms for three weeks or more.
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