We knew that Prof. Ian Judson is very well known for his work on sarcoma - he is one of our talented trustees after all - but we were not aware of his skills as a singer.
Prof. Judson sang with the London Concert Choir at their annual Carol Concert. He also had the opportunity to talk a little about Sarcoma UK and he kindly agreed to share his words here.
As you have seen from your programme, London Concert Choir has teamed up with the charity Sarcoma UK for this year’s Christmas Concert. I should just like to take a few moments to tell you a bit about the charity and why it’s so important.
Sarcomas are uncommon cancers that can arise in any part of the body, such as muscle, bone, fatty tissue, the bits and pieces that bind us together, and they can occur at any age. These cancers can also affect children and adolescents, and they can be utterly devastating. There are many different types, which makes diagnosis and treatment difficult. Nearly five and a half thousand people in the UK are diagnosed with sarcoma every year, that’s 15 a day. But, compared with common cancers like breast, lung, prostate, colon cancer, that isn’t a lot.
I’m a medical oncologist (“retired”) and for many years a large part of my job involved looking after sarcoma patients. We made great strides with one subtype, GIST, which arises in the stomach or bowel. I will never forget the first patient with GIST I treated with what was then a brand new, virtually untried drug, imatinib, nearly 20 years ago. He’d been in and out of hospice and was expecting to die within weeks or at best a few months. However, he responded to treatment, his tumours melted, he became well again, and could again enjoy food and a beer. He lived for more than 2 years, long enough to see his daughter married and his first grandchild born. Since then thousands of patients have benefited from this drug and its successors, and can expect to live for years, even with advanced disease, and we’re still making progress. But, for many sarcomas we still don’t have effective treatment, although research is slowly making a difference.
Being given a diagnosis of sarcoma can be a very lonely experience because many doctors and nurses won’t have come across a case, if they’ve even heard of it. I’ve often seen the relief on patients’ faces when they meet someone who knows about their disease and what to do about it. That’s where Sarcoma UK comes in. The charity provides access to high quality information, a telephone help line, on line help and other practical support. They are able to give people the knowledge they need to cope and help point them in the right direction for treatment. Over the last 3 years since the helpline was set, they’ve helped over 1600 people and taken over 5000 calls - and the numbers are increasing all the time.
In addition to practical help for patients, Sarcoma UK is investing in vital research to help improve our knowledge of these cancers and to develop better, more effective treatment. The research spend is increasing year on year and since the charity was founded less than 10 years ago it has invested over £3million in research. This year the amount will be at least £850k with the definite aim to invest more than £1 million next year. Projects have ranged from basic laboratory work to clinical studies of new treatments, and finding out what exactly are the needs of sarcoma patients so that care can be better focused. Breakthroughs like happened with GIST won’t happen every year, but we can help patients live longer, better lives.
The charity is taking its responsibility as an advocate for sarcoma patients very seriously and has worked hard to improve access to much needed new drugs. That work needs to continue.
Sarcoma UK is entirely reliant on donations for its work and I should like to thank you in advance for giving generously to the retiring collection after the concert.
Help us find the answers. Make your donation your gift this season.