Researchers make molehills out of mountains to show their support and raise money for Movember

The amount of prostate cancer research we’ve been able to fund has increased massively over the last few years, thanks in no small part to support from the Movember Foundation. And we’re not the only ones to appreciate this – the researchers we’ve funded have also been incredibly enthusiastic in showing their support by raising funds for the campaign. Here are some highlights from this Movember.

First up are our very own Research team Mo Bros: Dr Iain Frame (Director of Research), Dr Matthew Hobbs (Deputy Director of Research) and Simon Grieveson (Head of Research Funding). Don’t they look dashing – even if they look a bit like the sort of gang you wouldn’t want to bump into in a dark alley.

The Prostate Cancer UK Research team mo bros: Matthew Hobbs, Iain Frame and Simon Griveson

The Prostate Cancer UK Research team Mo Bros: Matthew Hobbs, Iain Frame and Simon Grieveson

Iain said: “Prostate cancer research has come a long way in the last 10 years, but we’ve still got a long way to go. We need a better way to tell a man’s individual risk of developing prostate cancer. We need a way to tell the difference between aggressive, potentially fatal prostate cancer, and non-aggressive prostate cancer that won’t cause men any problems. And we need better treatments for men with advanced disease. The harsh reality is that we won’t be able to do any of that without more funding for research. So really, the question isn’t: ‘Why am I growing a mo?’ It’s more like: ‘Why wouldn’t I grow one given what can be achieved by doing so?’ Plus, my wife thinks it makes me look even more handsome.”

Meanwhile in Newcastle, Dr Kelly Coffey, one of our first Career Development Fellows, and her lab mates took part in the Newcastle MoRun, where Dr Coffey’s PhD student Mahsa won the ladies’ 5k. As if this wasn’t enough, they also joined in with the larger Northern Institute of Cancer Research (NICR) team in a weekly (and apparently very competitive!) bake sale and their annual Movember quiz night and raffle. The NICR team also celebrated a new arrival this Movember when Dr Anastasia Hepburn gave birth to her second son, James. Never ones to miss an opportunity to involve the whole team in their fundraising (no matter how young), they promptly started a sweepstake to guess baby James’ weight. Overall, this mustachioed team raised a fantastic £750.

Kelly Coffey's team at the mo run

Dr Kelly Coffey’s team at the Newcastle MoRun

Dr Coffey said: “The Newcastle Mo Run was the first run I’ve ever done, and was a huge challenge, but I got there – eventually! And we will all be back next year. Researchers at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research take fundraising activities very seriously. It helps to keep us grounded and to really appreciate how difficult it is to raise money to pay for expensive research endeavours. Considering it took us a month’s worth of activities to raise £750 and my grant for five years was for £688,000 it really makes you appreciate how much time and effort has gone into generating this money. My opinion is that if a charity puts their trust in you, it’s your responsibility to not only ensure that you’re successful, but also to support the charity in return in as many ways as you can.” Well done, and thanks to you all.

In Cardiff, Dr Jason Webber, our newest Career Development Fellow and three year Mo Bro, his mentor Dr Aled Clayton (two year Mo Bro) and his team-mate Dr Joanne Welton (four year Mo Sista) all showed their fuzzy-faced support.

Dr Jason Webber's Cardiff mo team

Dr Jason Webber’s Cardiff mo team

Dr Webber said: “As researchers we are incredibly grateful for the funding that we receive. We are therefore pleased to do what we can to help raise awareness for men’s health and support Movember and Prostate Cancer UK.”

Dr Michael Ladomery at the University of the West of England gave us a stage by stage update on his mo-gress:

Dr Michael Ladomery's Mo-progress

Dr Michael Ladomery’s mo-gress

He said: “I work in prostate cancer research and this sort of initiative is really valuable, so I want to contribute my bit! That’s why I am growing a moustache for the first time in my life. It is unsettling, unhygienic, itchy, and ugly. But all for a good cause!” Dr Ladomery’s experiment with a hairy face earned a very respectable £180 for the campaign. Great work – and thank you!

Finally, the 42-strong team (yes that’s right, 42) at the Belfast end of the Belfast-Manchester Movember Centre of Excellence have really pushed the boat out with their fundraising efforts this year, raising an awe-inspiring £2,640.

Queen's University Belfast's 42-strong team of Mo Bros and Mo Sistas

Mo Bros and Mo Sistas at Queen’s University Belfast

And they weren’t satisfied with the traditional grow a mo and get sponsored approach (although they did that too). They also held a bake-sale at a local business and convinced their local coffee suppliers (Clements and Starbucks) to wear fake moustaches and collect donations. The Mo Sistas donated money to buy and wear fake mos for ‘Fake Moustache Fridays’, one of the professors held a one-man James Joyce showcase (after all, he was a famous Irish Mo Bro) and as if that wasn’t enough, they climbed Everest twice in one night at an indoor climbing fundraiser!

Dr Sharon Eddie Parkinson, a post-doctoral researcher at the Centre of Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen’s University Belfast said: “As a Movember Centre of Excellence focused on prostate cancer research, we are all too aware of how prevalent and devastating the disease is. We strive to improve the prognosis for patients by identifying biomarkers for early detection and developing novel personal therapies to better treat the disease once it is diagnosed. However, this work cannot be done without the generous funding from Movember and Prostate Cancer UK, so we are incredibly grateful for all the donations we’ve received.”

And Dr Rich Williams, lecturer in medicinal chemistry added: “The funding provided by Prostate Cancer UK and Movember to our group is allowing us to develop the next generation of anti-prostate cancer therapeutics. In addition, we’re using this funding to further increase our knowledge of how to target the hallmarks of this aggressive disease. As a group we all too aware of the need for Movember to raise funds and put them towards improving the outcome for men suffering from prostate cancer, and are delighted to be able to contribute to the cause.”

It’s still not too late to donate – you can help the CCRCB team crack the £3,000 mark by donating.

Wow. A huge thank you and well done from everyone here for the incredible efforts you’ve all (researchers and readers) put in to making this Movember a big success. Your facial hair makes a difference. It enables us – with continuing support from the Movember Foundation – to fund much needed, life-saving research. So as all the Mo Bros out there thankfully stroke their now fuzz-free faces, we say… roll on next Movember!

A MO-mentous day in Parliament

Westminster MPs who embraced Movember 2014

Jason McCartney MP (second from left) with MPs who embraced Movember 2014

We’ve talked about why it’s important for us to build relationships with politicians before. It’s because we need to highlight at the highest levels the inequalities men with and at risk of prostate cancer face – and the changes that need to be made. This is crucial if we want to achieve our goal of improving care and support for men with prostate cancer. And Movember is a fantastic opportunity to make that happen.

The MPs who take part in Movember not only raise money for the cause, but also act as awareness raising champions in the halls of power and in their constituencies – spreading the important health messages behind the campaign throughout the month.

This year Jason McCartney MP, Mike Penning MP and Jake Berry MP bravely grew moustaches, as did Assembly Member Carl Sargeant in Wales and Liam McArthur MSP in Scotland. We were very pleased that the minister with responsibility for cancer services, Jane Ellison MP, once again supported us by attending our photo-call in Westminster at the end of the month. Mo Sistas Luciana Berger MP, Rt Hon Caroline Spelman MP and Fiona Mactaggart MP also joined us on the day, and Jason McCartney, MP for Colne Valley in West Yorkshire, raised a fuzzy-faced question in Prime Minister’s Questions –the half an hour on a Wednesday afternoon when the PM sets aside time to answer questions from MPs.

This year, Jason asked: “Every hour one man dies from prostate cancer in the UK.  Testicular cancer is now the most common cancer in men aged 25 to 49 in the UK and on average 12 men in the UK die from suicide. Will you join me in congratulating all the men who have taken part in the Movember campaign to raise these men’s health issues and will the Government continue to fund them and support these vital men’s health issues?”

And David Cameron replied: “I certainly join you in praising all those have taken part in Movember. You are sporting a pretty magnificent specimen. I have to say (Mr Berry) looks like he’s about to star in a Cheech and Chong movie – it’s absolutely remarkable. In terms of my protection team, they have done incredible work and they’re raising a lot of money. I’m only sorry that I can’t seem to be able to join you but the causes are important – particularly these cancers that really need to raise awareness, improve treatments and save lives.”

At our photo-call in Westminster, Prostate Cancer UK volunteer, Nick Harding, caught up with Jason McCartney for a quick chat about why he takes part in Movember.

Jason McCartney MP movember SPW_8337

Jason McCartney MP chatted to Prostate Cancer UK staff and volunteers at Westminster

Jason: “I’ve been involved with Prostate Cancer UK almost since I started here in Parliament. About five years ago, a good friend of mine called Des Latham died from prostate cancer. He inspired me to change direction in my career as a broadcaster with ITV Yorkshire and to run for parliament. Des was ill for about six months before he passed away in his mid-fifties. He should have had many years ahead of him. This is a very personal issue for me, but obviously some of my constituents are affected by prostate cancer too.

“Men are notoriously bad at recognising symptoms of poor health and going to the GP. We can actually save lives by spreading the word about the risk factors for prostate cancer, as well as by campaigning for certain cancer drugs to be licensed and for more research into different types of treatment.

“These days people are hearing about a lot of health issues. I mean, there was World Aids Day recently and there’s a very high profile campaign running in the fight against HIV. And a lot of women’s cancer charities run really, really successful campaigns on the importance of early screening, whether it’s for cervical cancer or breast cancer. As I said, I think men have been historically bad at recognising symptoms, going to see their GP and getting tested. So, just by making people more aware of prostate cancer, and actually realising what a big killer it is, we can fundraise for more research and help people save lives.

“By taking part in Movember, I’ve probably had 50-60 conversations about men’s health issues and prostate cancer that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It all starts when people ask: ‘Why are you growing a moustache?’. I raise money as well but for me, it really is more about starting conversations, making people more aware of what prostate cancer is and how many men it affects every year.

“This year, I think the best mo in Westminster was Mike Penning’s – Home Office and Justice Minister. I had a meeting with him recently and he had big, hairy chops. He looked like something from the 1800s, and he carried it off really well. It’s great that someone in the Ministerial team has taken part. There’s also my good pal Jake Berry, from Rossendale and Darwen, just over the Pennines from me. As the Prime Minister said in response to my question in PMQs, he looks like a ‘Cheech and Chong’ character. I’ve just looked online and he does – he looks like a bandito!”

Hot off the press: volunteers help to score party conference success

David Cameron signs for Men United at the Conservative party conference

David Cameron signs for Men United at the Conservative party conference

Over the last month, our Policy and Campaigns team and dedicated supporter campaigners have been travelling the length and breadth of the country to attend the three main UK political party conferences. This year, our campaigning was focused around our five inequalities: five solutions report that we launched in Westminster and Holyrood in the summer. The report highlights the inequalities that men with and at risk of prostate cancer face and underpins our Men United v Prostate Cancer campaign.

We’ve already recorded some notable successes since publishing this report. For example, the Westminster Government launched a new pilot strand of the Be Clear on Cancer awareness campaign in London, particularly aimed at raising awareness of prostate cancer risk in Black men, while the Scottish Government announced that robot assisted prostatectomy would be made available on the NHS in Scotland, with the first patients set to benefit early next year.

While these early successes are extremely encouraging, this isn’t the end of the story, which is why we need to attend events like the party conferences.

They’re a key part of our influencing activity – a chance to meet with politicians, people planning to stand for election next year (prospective parliamentary candidates) and members of the House of Lords. It’s an opportunity to raise the profile of prostate cancer  at the highest level and highlight the inequalities men with and at risk of prostate cancer are still facing. The relationships we build with politicians at party conferences are vital in achieving our goal of improving care and support for men with prostate cancer.

One thing that definitely struck me was how important it was to have our volunteers with us. I was at the Liberal Democrat conference with volunteers Terry Potter and Rod Wiltshire, who did a fantastic job getting the politicians onside. And Susan Childs, Roger Hones, Jon Newman and Robin Porter were also brilliant at the Labour and Conservative party conferences. The very down-to-earth, personal way that they told politicians their stories and gave their perspective as someone living with or directly affected by prostate cancer really added colour and strength to our message. And I have to say that watching Terry turn the charm on Nick Clegg, and exchanging some man-to-man banter as he signed for Men United really made my day!

Volunteer Rod with Campaigns and Media Coordinator Lauren Davies

Award winning: Volunteer Rod Wiltshire with Campaigns and Media Coordinator Lauren Davies

We took a stand kitted out like the Men United locker room to each conference and handed out personalized Men United shirts for a suggested donation to MPs and other politicians who signed for the team. The stand was really eye-catching and helped gain us a lot of attention and support – we even won awards for it at both the Labour and Liberal Democrat party conferences!

You can have a look at how exciting our stand was and how many politicians the supporter campaigners signed in our storify feed: https://storify.com/ProstateUK/party-conferences-2014

 

 

Getting closer to identifying aggressive disease

I’m still in Baltimore at the Prostate Cancer UK Forum and conversations last night continued over dinner and well into the evening. But I was up with the larks again today, ready for another day full of presentations and discussions on the latest developments in prostate cancer research.

Today, we covered managing disease – from imaging, to diagnosis and from low-risk to high-risk prostate cancer, and how we’re starting to tell the difference between them. Continue reading

Prostate cancer research – it’s not all talk, but it’s a good place to start

A couple of weeks ago, I told you how excited I was about the upcoming Prostate Cancer UK Research Forum. Well, it finally arrived (a shame our luggage didn’t – but that’s another story), so now we’re here in Baltimore, home of the internationally renowned Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, with some of the world’s leading prostate cancer experts. Continue reading

What do you get when put 75 prostate cancer experts in a room together for three days and lock the door? We can’t wait to find out.

Okay, so we don’t actually lock the door. But in two weeks’ time, I’ll be reporting back from the 11th Biennial Prostate Cancer Forum. It’s an event we’ve funded over the past 22 years and it sees some of the world’s top prostate cancer researchers and clinicians pooling their collective expertise to try and beat prostate cancer. Continue reading

A mingling of young minds – meet our early career researchers.

Our early career researchers

Our early career researchers

If you read my last blog post, I talked about how important it is facilitate conversations between bright minds. It could always be the first step to the next breakthrough.

Well in that spirit, and of course in the spirit of Men United, I’m very excited to report that we’ve just held our first ever networking event for all the PhD students and Fellows that we fund and support.

Continue reading