I wanted to share with you an extraordinary opportunity I've had recently which was to attend a course on the Biology of Cancer at Barts Cancer Institute, Queen Mary's, University of London.
The course is run by a group of amazing people who encourage patients to understand more about cancer. Their aim is to improve existing treatments for every cancer patient and to develop new treatments by bringing patients’ voices into clinical research.
The course was the third of its kind. It was a residential course delivered over 5 days at the Barts Cancer Institute. I was quite nervous before I joined the course as I'm a science dunce. I studied Biology A Level at school but that was when biology was about cutting up various animals and plants. DNA structures and molecular biology were the stuff of science fiction in the 1960s.
We had lectures every morning from 9 to 1:30 delivered by various leading academics. In the first two days we covered the Cell Biology and Molecular Biology. It was a bit of a shock but with the infinite kindness, patience and a lot of enthusiasm on the part of our teachers we all managed to grasp the principles to some extend or other. In the afternoons we did practical work in the lab and progressed from the first day learning how to measure and weigh to an incredible observation session when we watched a leading Histopathologist examining tumours in breast tissue and reporting back to the surgical team to advise them of any additional work they needed to do before finishing surgery on the patient. We isolated and observed our own DNA, and on the final session detatched cell receptors in tumour tissue - the receptors which are central to clinical trials investigating PARP inhibitors. The remaining theory lessons covered what goes wrong and why cancers develop, and then an overview of a number of site-specific cancers including ovarian cancer.
There will be another course next year and you can check out the VOICE website at independentcancerpatientsvo... to see what they do and details of their courses. It really is an opportunity of a lifetime.