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!”

Growing together since 2007

We’ve been big fans of the hairy upper lip since 2007, when Adam and JC – two of the original four mo-bros – first walked into our offices and suggested we team up to tackle prostate cancer in the UK. And that, as they’ve probably never said, was the start of a long and beautiful hairy-lipped friendship. Continue reading

Going global – the True NTH programme

It doesn’t take long – three to four minutes of the evening news should do it – to realise just how disjointed and isolated we can be as a species. Our countries have never been better connected in terms of technology, but in many respects we’re just as distant as when travelling between continents involved months at sea.

Take prostate cancer as an example. Each year, hundreds of thousands of men across the globe are diagnosed with prostate cancer, and the many who survive it often experience significant side-effects from treatment. Incontinence, loss of sexual function, and fatigue to name just a few. Experts in each country battle on a daily basis to improve the lives of these men, but their learnings – both good and bad – sometimes don’t travel further than the local hospital they’re developed in.

With this very problem in mind, the Movember Foundation have launched True NTH, a global programme designed to trial and implement new ways of significantly improving the lives of men (and their partners) living with prostate cancer. Crucially, the aim is to collaborate internationally, and develop and perfect programmes that can be rolled out anywhere in the world.

True NTH

The True NTH programme will make a huge difference to the lives of men living with prostate cancer.

A worldwide network, True NTH consists of 77 leading global experts from 23 difference organisations from the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the USA. Prostate Cancer UK is leading on five projects funded by the Movember Foundation that are looking to improve prostate cancer care and support in these four areas:

  • Better treatment decisions for men
  • Exercise and diet
  • Supported self management (helping men to manage their own recovery)
  • Improving continence (both bowel and urinary)

These projects aim to provide practical, cost-effective solutions to everyday problems faced by many of the 250,000 men living with the disease in the UK.

The Movember Foundation is a global force to be reckoned with. In 330 days – one month of activity per year for the last 11 years – Movember have raised over £346 million across the globe. People often associate fortitude and determination with a stiff upper lip, but the Movember Foundation are proving that a hairy one can be just as formidable. I am proud to be working with the Movember Foundation in the UK, and look forward to report back on the progress of True NTH in the coming months.

Back to the future of prostate cancer research

2371 Centre of Excellence_core image_580x224

When Marty McFly went back to the future (the second time), he saw the people of 2015 flying on hoverboards and running their cars on household waste. While we might not have achieved this vision of efficient living, there’s no doubt that the world is a very different place from what it was 20-odd years ago, when the internet wasn’t in every house and mobile phones were the size of small dogs. Back then we saw a peak in the number of men dying from prostate cancer and new prostate cancer drugs like abiraterone were in the very earliest phases of development.

Nowadays, we know much more about prostate cancer than we used to, and we know that thanks to treatments like abiraterone men are living longer with advanced prostate cancer. However, we also know that the battle isn’t over. So today, as we launch the UK’s first ever Centres of Excellence for prostate cancer research, which bring together some of Britain’s biggest brains across leading research institutions to work on key areas of prostate cancer research, it seems like a good time to look forward to what the next 20 years might bring. Continue reading

Time to welcome back a furry friend

I can hardly believe that it is time to welcome back a furry friend (or should that be fiend) back into my life. Today is 1st Movember and I will of course be fully participating. Last year I was a ‘Mo virgin’ – unaware how it would look or feel to be the ‘proud’ owner of a top lip warmer. Well now I am a ‘Mo pro’ I enter this most important month of the year with the certainty that my facial hair will be ginger (although I prefer to think of it as ‘strawberry blond’). However, the main source of my excited anticipation is the knowledge that I will be taking part in something really special that genuinely brings together Mo Bros and Mo Sistas to make a real difference for the health of men.
I cannot quite believe it has been a whole year – so much has happened. The charity has become Prostate Cancer UK and has a new look and feel as well as creating a unified voice through our merger with Prostate Action. It is our partnership with Movember that has enabled us to drive these changes forward and to be clear about our ambitious plans for the future that underpin our recently published MANifesto. We are also entering Movember with new partnerships with the Football League and Royal Mail, both of which will lead to more Mo Bros raising money and spreading the vital messages about why we are all looking a bit daft (or very daft in my case).
This year, the campaign is all about ‘Movember and Sons’ and it has such a strong resonance with everything that Prostate Cancer UK is all about. Prostate cancer is currently the most common cancer in men and it will not be many years before it is the most common of all cancers. This is why in our MANifesto we have committed to significantly increasing investment into both supporting men with the disease and developing research to identify better forms of diagnosis and treatment. These commitments are in no small part down to the fund raising efforts of Mo Bros and Mo Sistas.
As well as raising money, Movember is all about promoting awareness of prostate cancer and other men’s health issues. Simply by wearing their Mo with pride, Mo Bros are responsible for millions of conversations about men’s health in the UK alone. When you consider that Movember is a truly global campaign that translates to billions of conversations. That is why is so fantastic that this year’s campaign recognises the importance of those conversations happening across generations. Talking to your dad, uncle or boss has real potential to save lives. This is also exactly why the third theme of our MANifesto is to lead change. Change will not happen until we start talking about prostate cancer and create a genuine men’s health movement that is driven by our belief that it is an issue that has been neglected for too long and it is time to be clear that men deserve better.
I am looking forward to the month ahead because Movember is fun. I am looking forward to it because it is great to know that you are part of something big that gets so many people taking notice of such an important issue. I am even looking forward to it because I have missed my Mo, it will be good to have him back.

Diary of a Mo Bro – Week Three

Three weeks in, me and my facial hair are enjoying a veritable ‘mo-mance’ (I know, I just can’t help myself). From my early days as a nervous Mo virgin, I am now struggling to imagine life without it. This is not only because there is something primeval and manly about reaching trim stage, as we did this week, but the sense of community that goes with it. We were on the road again last week, and what struck me was – from knowing nods with fellow Mo Bros on the tube to the mass celebration of the gala partes – there is a togetherness to this campaign, which is quite unique.

First stop was a day at the races, at Haydock, with the highlight being, of course, the Betfair Hairy Mo Chase. Betfair, one of the committed partners of The Prostate Cancer Charity, had organised a fantastic day, and engaged the whole racing world behind it. I was lucky enough to present the trophies to the winners and judging the best turned out horse – given that I am now an expert on grooming, I felt quite well-placed to do this. Some of the more prominent Channel 4 presenters were proudly showing off a hirsute look to the nation. Racing Post journalist David Ashforth (who is sporting a very fine Mo himself), who has been diagnosed with and treated for prostate cancer, also joined us on the day. David has been instrumental in rallying the racing community behind the cause, writing frequent open and honest pieces about his experiences. Through his tireless efforts, David has helped us to reach thousands of men, who need to know about this disease, through the second biggest spectator sport in the UK. We are really keen to continue to build our profile through this route as we know it is a really effective way of getting information about prostate cancer out to thousands of men who are at risk of this disease across the UK. I am really pleased that David has become one of our Ambassadors and continues to do so much for the cause and the Charity.

Next on the agenda was a quiz, organised by the Charity’s very own ‘Mostesses’. On the face of it (yes, the pun is absolutely intended), Movember is one for the boys. But the event showed me just how effective Mo Sistas can be in raising money and awareness. The quiz – which was so successful we had to turn people away – showed that Movember is all about the girls, and the boys. Since joining the Charity, it is clear to me that prostate cancer is a big issue for women. More than one in four of the calls to our Helpline are from women – and we know they can be a big influence on getting men thinking about and acting on their health concerns. That is why Movember would not work without the support and full participation of the Mo Sistas – not least because they have to put up with us fellas being furry faced for the month.

As well as my bristles ‘mo-ing’ from strength to strength, this year’s campaign is also making ground as the most successful ever. The number of Mo Bros and Sistas out there is well over twice the number who took part last year. In itself, this is a fantastic success because it means more people are thinking about men’s health issues and the increased awareness that it brings will save lives. More people participating also means that more money can be raised to make a significant difference for men and their loved ones through direct investment in prostate cancer research and services. Over the past few weeks I have met loads of Mo Bros and Sistas and there are many reasons why they participate. Some just want to have some fun, some are doing it because prostate cancer has had a direct impact on them or they may be doing it because they recognise that men’s health issues have for too long not been given an adequate profile. Another appeal for some is that they are participating in a global campaign which, despite the different ways that healthcare systems are organised, highlights that men all across the world are facing the same challenges when it comes to their health and that there is a real desire to make life better for them.

As the week drew to a close, I attended my first gala parte in London. There was the same sense of celebration and community, with people coming together. I am getting a little sad about parting company with my Mo, and I am determined to give it a good send off. In the meantime, we will be out there meeting with more Mo Bros and Sistas at gala partes across the UK (more on those next week). As they say …… there is Mo rest for the wicked!