Lynn and Lynn Lucas (centre) visiting the lab of Professor Janet Shipley (left) at the ICR (photo: Lynn Lucas, Chris Lucas Trust)
Prime Minister Theresa May has celebrated the dedicated fundraising of Lynn Lucas, who set up a trust to fund research into a rare form of cancer in memory of her son Chris.
Chris’s parents, both called Lynn, lost him to a rare sarcoma called rhabdomyosarcoma in 2000. Since then they set up the Chris Lucas Trust and have raised more than £2 million towards research into the disease at The Institute of Cancer Research, London.
Recognising volunteers who make change
In recognition of their incredible efforts Lynn, who lives in North Tyneside, was chosen for a Points of Light Award, which recognises outstanding individual volunteers who are making a change in their community.
Chris Lucas (centre), pictured here with his mum and dad, fought rhabdomyosarcoma for three years (photo: Lynn Lucas, Chris Lucas Trust)
Lynn was surprised to receive this award: “I was very shocked to get the call and be chosen for this award. Things like this don’t happen in Newcastle!
“It’s an honour that I want to share with my husband – we’ve both dedicated our lives to this cause. It started during Christopher’s illness when we raised money for the local hospital where he was being treated and, since he died, raising money for research that offers hope for other people who develop this rare form of cancer.”
A vital contribution to research
In a personal letter written to Lynn, Prime Minister May wrote: “Your fundraising efforts are making a vital contribution to research into sarcoma. Your important work through the Chris Lucas memorial fund is a wonderful tribute to the memory of your son.”
The Prime Minister's letter (left) and the Point of Light Award. Click the images to view in full screen.
With her husband, Lynn has raised millions of pounds for research at the ICR into Chris’s condition. They started an annual sponsored cycle – the Great North Bike Ride – and a Christmas fundraiser called the Jingle Bell Walk, among many other creative fundraising activities.
Through the Trust, Lynn and Lynn hope to improve the outcome for patients with rhabdomyosarcomas and drive new targeted drugs into the clinic where they can help other families.
The importance of the Chris Lucas Trust to ICR research
The Trust has already contributed to some important research at the ICR. One study showed that incorporating a genetic test into assessment of the cancer is superior to a visual microscopic approach in deciding what treatment intensity to give patients – an approach now being introduced into an international clinical trial for rhabdomyosarcoma.
Another study showed that combining two targeted therapies could block processes driving the growth of rhabdomyosarcoma cancer more effectively than either alone.
A recent pledge by the Chris Lucas Trust enabled the ICR to employ two scientists to work exclusively on rhabdomyosarcoma. These researchers are being supervised by Professor Janet Shipley, who is a world leader in researching these kinds of sarcomas.
Professor Shipley is hugely grateful for their support: “The Lucases and the supporters of their charity have tirelessly raised funds for our research for many years. Lynn is hugely deserving of this award – her support has been tremendous and so important to my research here at the ICR as well as future rhabdomyosarcoma patients.”
Chris was first diagnosed in 1997 – he was a strong, sporty teenager, who twice battled back from his cancer before it finally took him in 2000. Although treatments have improved since then, once the disease has become advanced it remains very difficult to treat. But in Christopher’s memory, Lynn is helping to fund research that offers hope of a breakthrough.
Lynn said: “Our fundraising is hard but it’s extremely rewarding – the research into Chris’s condition is desperately needed. Through setting up our charity, we have met and been contacted by so many other families who have been affected by rhabdomyosarcoma. We believe in Professor Shipley’s and the ICR’s commitment to finding new, more effective and kinder treatments for patients like Chris with sarcoma.”
Find out more about parent-led charities like the Chris Lucas Trust and their inspirational support for the ICR’s child cancer research.