When Paul O’Gorman asked his family to help children with cancer, we wonder whether he ever imagined how many people would know his name. By 2008, our supporters had helped us to raise over £100 million, and in 2009, two new research centres opened – one in London, the other in Glasgow – both named after Paul.
The survival rate for childhood leukaemia increased dramatically towards the end of the 20th century, but only by using the most intensive and toxic treatments. This intensive treatment aims to prevent return of the disease (relapse); but scientists believe that at least 50% of children could be cured with less intensive therapy.
Over £2.7 million went into a UK clinical trial for children with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), which pioneered a new test to establish the number of leukaemic cells remaining in a child’s bone marrow at remission.
This is called minimal residual disease (MRD) and indicates how well each child has responded to treatment. The trial showed that by adjusting the intensity of treatment based on a child’s MRD results, they have a much better outcome.
The trial was so successful that the NHS adopted MRD testing as part of the standard treatment regime for children with ALL, with the potential to increase the survival rate to over 90% and reduce side effects in those who survive.
We provided £2 million towards the spectacular new building at University College London (UCL) home to the UCL Cancer Institute, and UCL named the new building after Paul O’Gorman.
Opened in September 2007, this was the eighth research facility in the UK to carry Paul’s name, and is now home to more than 350 cancer scientists. And at the University of Glasgow, the Paul O’Gorman Leukaemia Research facility opened, giving clinicians and researchers access to the most up-to-date facilities and equipment and bringing together teams who had previously been scattered across several different university sites.
We contributed £500,000 towards the cost of the Centre and worked with Professor Tessa Holyoake, Director of the Centre, to provide funding for a senior scientist to lead a programme of research into the causation and development of childhood leukaemia.
2008 was a landmark year, as our total income surpassed £100 million, enabling us to fund major advances in treatment, world-class research and much needed welfare programmes.
That same year, our second international conference brought together 120 scientists from around the world to share the latest knowledge of the role of environmental factors and genetics in the development of childhood leukaemia, and help shape a research agenda for the future.
Our 2008 grant panel, chaired by Professor Eric Wright, awarded £940,251 to fund six new research projects. These included research into leukaemia and other cancers in teenagers and young adults in England, leukaemia in children with Down syndrome and an unborn child’s exposure to carcinogens.
For our second round of research grants in 2006, our expert panel chose eight projects, at a total cost of £865,124.
2007 was our 20th anniversary and our most successful fundraising year to date. Over two decades the charity had grown vastly and made huge progress in the fight against childhood leukaemia, funding more clinical trials and research projects. A programme to investigate trends in childhood cancer risk began and a new research centre was opened for more than 350 scientists to continue their essential work.
This work included Dr Malcolm Taylor’s research into how we could use a child’s own immune system to develop a vaccine, enabling the immune system to recognise and destroy cells that may develop into leukaemia. Dr Taylor’s project represented the first step towards achieving the goal.
The same year, the team at GOSH faced a sudden increase in the number of children with cancer referred to them following a reorganisation of care in London. Our first £500,000 donation, part of a £2.4 million pledge, funded a much-needed redevelopment of Lion, Giraffe and Elephant Day Care, the haematology and oncology wards, and the creation of a new 17-bed oncology ward at Great Ormond Street Hospital. We paid our final instalment in 2008 and all the new facilities are now fully operational.