Sixty years of fund-raising marked with afternoon tea

The Duchess of Northumberland hosted afternoon tea for 10 members of the Berwick Committee for Cancer Research at Alnwick Garden's Treehouse last Thursday.

Thursday, 21st September 2017, 11:23 am
Updated Wednesday, 27th September 2017, 10:48 am
The Duchess of Northumberland presents an award to members of the Berwick Committee of Cancer Research UK who are celebrating their 60th anniversary . Picture by Jane Coltman

Her Grace presented an award to Dorothy Wakenshaw, its chairman, and the party was joined by Professor James Allan, Professor of Cancer Genetics at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research.

The event was organised as a celebration of the committee’s 60th anniversary.

Formed in 1957, the committee was launched to support the Northern Institute for Cancer Research under the leadership of the then Mayor, Mrs Adams, and supported by a range of local businesses, individuals and organisations.

Raising £400 in its first year, the committee soon turned into a powerful fundraising force, raising tens of thousands of pounds each year through events and firm support from local businesspeople.

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Over the life of the committee, hundreds of thousands of pounds have been raised to help beat cancer and, in the last 10 years, £300,000 has been directed to Cancer Research UK’s work by the group. They regularly visit the CRUK’s laboratories in Newcastle to hear about its groundbreaking work, and see how their donations are being used.

Dorothy said: “We are very grateful to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland for their hospitality and for recognising our work in Berwick. We really do appreciate the practical and financial support we receive from the people of the town and the business community who have generously supported us over the years.”

Cancer Research UK fundraising manager Carolyn Reynolds said: “The commitment of our volunteers and their supporters is always very much appreciated by our researchers in Newcastle – the people who are on the front line in the fight to beat cancer.

“They never forget that everything they use in the lab – from a test tube to a piece of sophisticated electronic equipment – has been funded by a coffee morning, or a bake sale, or a cycle ride, because the charity receives no government funding for its vital research.”

The charity is looking for new people to join the Berwick group. To find out more, contact

60 years of progress in the fight against cancer

One in two people alive today will receive a cancer diagnosis, and two in four will survive their disease. In terms of cancer diagnosis, treatment and survival, the picture has changed almost beyond recognition since the group was formed sixty years ago.

Back in the 1950s, survival from cancer was poor. Damaging surgery and relatively unsophisticated radiotherapy were the main treatments, assuming the disease was detected in time for anything to be done. Today’s diagnostic tests, keyhole surgery, highly targeted radiotherapy and arsenal of cancer drugs were far beyond the imagination of the doctors at that time.

Our understanding of cancer has transformed over the past 60 years, thanks to the discovery of the structure of DNA, the advent of chemotherapy, and solid evidence for the links between cancer and factors such as smoking or viruses. Back then, people simply didn’t talk about cancer, now, we all know how to reduce our risk.

Progress in detecting cancer

Back in the 1950s, the only way doctors could see inside the body was with X-rays, and there were no screening tests for cancer. Since then, we’ve seen huge leaps in imaging technology, including medical ultrasound in the 50s and CT, PET and MRI scanning in the 70s.

We now also have screening tests for several different types of cancer. Cancer Research UK’s work, funded by groups like Berwick, helped to shape the national screening programmes for breast, bowel and cervical cancer, which together save thousands of lives every year.

The future

It’s almost impossible to imagine how much our world might change over the next 60 years, although it’s certain that the fight will continue to find more effective ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer – advances that will save many more lives and keep families together for longer.

The revolution in gene sequencing technology will help us to develop new therapies. We also hope that the steps being made in immunotherapy will break into a run, providing powerful new ways to treat cancer. Radiotherapy will continue to become more accurate.

Hard work is going on to find more effective ways to detect cancer earlier through better diagnostic tests, imaging, and screening programmes, which could save many tens of thousands of lives over the coming decades.

We expect the genetic revolution to lead to more personalised screening and prevention, and a bit part of the story in the future will be providing information to help us make the healthy choices that can reduce our cancer risk.

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