Friends walk from Exeter to Wembley to fund groundbreaking tumour vaccine

A group of walkers have set off from Exeter on an eight-day trek to Wembley Stadium for their friend who was diagnosed with a brain tumour earlier this year.

Luke Johnston hopes to benefit from a new treatment to prolong his life, but it is unavailable on the NHS. So far fundraisers have collected nearly £130,000.

They hope to raise more as they walk from Devon to London ahead of the England men’s football match against Italy on 17 October.

Luke was 35 when, in March 2023, he received the diagnosis of a stage 4 glioblastoma, following the discovery of a brain tumour.

The diagnosis comes with a bleak prognosis: the average glioblastoma survival time is 12-18 months and only 25% of patients survive more than one year. Only 5% of patients survive more than five years.

But there is some hope after Luke learned about a new treatment called DCVAX-L. It is a personalised cancer vaccine made from each patient's own cells, which can help the immune system recognise and attack tumour cells.

The treatment is expensive, costing between £150,000-£250,000, and is not currently available on the NHS. Luke's friends and family hope the vaccine becomes accessible for him but, if not, they say the funds will be used for 'bucket list experiences'.

Luke said: "It’s just accepting what it is. It’s so far out of my control - it’s just been in the hands of the NHS, who have been absolutely incredible throughout this entire process. They’ve made this unbearable ordeal bearable."

Luke, his family and friends set off from Exeter City's training ground

Over a dozen people are set to walk to Wembley over the eight days. Luke said: "The turnout has been incredible and I can’t thank people enough.

"We’ve had people coming from all over the country, some other countries and, yeah, it’s been remarkable."

Luke's friend Steve Horton said: "I’d do a lot worse than walking to Wembley for Luke - he is my influence, we grew up together, so yeah it means the world and to be able to support him and to be able to raise money for a treatment that could prolong his life is just incredible."

Another friend Joe Hibberd said: "You can see by the number of people here how popular Luke is.

"It started off with just two of us and then as soon as we spoke to anybody they wanted to get involved, they wanted to be part of this.

"Just the level of fundraising but also the amount of people - it’s just been overwhelming."