The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation

Presented by: Professor Frank Sanderson

Honorable Pro-Chancellor, I have pleasure in presenting The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation for the Corporate Award of Liverpool John Moores University.  

Twenty years ago, there were 40,000 new cases of lung cancer every year in the UK and a mortality rate of 95 percent. 

Liverpool itself had one of the highest lung cancer rates in the world and yet there was: 

  • Virtually no scientific research 
  • No lung cancer support nurses
  • No patient support groups 
  • No national help line 
  • Poor resourcing by the NHS Widespread negative attitudes to lung cancer patients 
  • No work on helping children not to start smoking
  • Passive smoking was not a public issue 

In 1990, Ray Donnelly, a leading thoracic surgeon working in Liverpool, sat down with his secretary Sheila Christian and Eric Morris, one of his patients, to set out his ideas for a new charity dedicated to the study of lung cancer in all its aspects. Ray has recalled, "We had no money, no institutional backing, no patrons; we had nothing except a keen sense of responsibility and determination to succeed."  

Within a year, charitable status was achieved, a Board of Trustees appointed, and the Lung Cancer Fund publicly launched by Ken Dodd and Libor Pešek in Liverpool. 

The first lung cancer support nurse was appointed in Liverpool in 1991 and work soon began in local schools to help children not to smoke. 

And the first grant to investigate the early genetic changes occurring in the development of lung cancer was given in 1993 to Professor John Field at the University of Liverpool. In 1993, as Ray Donnelly was formulating his ideas for an international centre for lung cancer research, contact was made with the popular entertainer Roy Castle who was a non-smoking lung cancer sufferer. 

Roy agreed to give his name to a special appeal for the Lung Cancer Fund to raise funds to build, equip and run the centre. By his death a year later, Roy Castle had raised millions of pounds for the appeal, and his heroic contribution was recognised by changing the name of the charity to The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation. The new research centre on London Road was officially opened by Sir Cliff Richard in 1998. 

One of Ray Donnelly's major concerns was about young children smoking. He was aware that by the age of 11, one third of children have experimented with smoking, and by 15 around one in four teenagers were regular smokers. It was this concern which led The Lung Cancer Fund to grant-aid research at LJMU in 1994 into children's attitudes and perceptions with regard to smoking.  

The main researcher, Lorna Porcellato, began what Professor Donnelly has described as "a unique and immensely important longitudinal study" following a group of more than 200 children from the age of 5 until they leave secondary school. 

Today, the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation is the pre-eminent lung cancer charity in the world with a national and international profile. Using the voluntary funds it is able to generate from public and corporate donors, the Foundation works in diverse ways to achieve its objective of defeating lung cancer.  

It conducts research into the early detection of lung cancer with the prospect of many lives being saved It provides practical and emotional support for those affected by lung cancer. It provides support for smokers who want to give up the habit It seeks to ensure that young people are well informed about the dangers of smoking In recent years, the Foundation has campaigned for the Government to give greater priority to tackling the disease which remains the UK's leading cause of cancer death for men and women. 

Greater national consistency of lung cancer management and patient care is urgently needed, with a greater focus on issues such as equity of care, funding for research and availability of specialist nurses. Highlighted by the Foundation is a persistent postcode lottery effect where patients in some parts of the country, or from lower socioeconomic backgrounds receive sub-standard levels of care. 

There have been close links between LJMU and the Foundation since its inception.  

Fifteen years ago, Liverpool John Moores University awarded an honorary fellowship to Ray Donnelly in acknowledgement of his pioneering work. Eleven years ago, we awarded him a well deserved professorship in Lung Cancer Studies. 

It is particularly pleasing therefore that Professor Donnelly, the Founder, former Medical Director and current President of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, should represent the Foundation today. 

It is thus with great pleasure that we invite Professor Ray Donnelly, to receive on behalf of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, the Corporate Award from Liverpool John Moores University.