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Benjamin brothers help ‘shed light’ on tomorrow’s skin cancer treatment

Shedding light on skin cancer (from the left), Dr Ruth Board is presented with research project funds as their father’s legacy by Oliver, James and Alex Benjamin, watched by Rosemere’s Cathy Skidmore
Shedding light on skin cancer (from the left), Dr Ruth Board is presented with research project funds as their father’s legacy by Oliver, James and Alex Benjamin, watched by Rosemere’s Cathy Skidmore

[T]he three sons of an Ambleside man, who died from skin cancer, have ensured their father’s legacy will be to “shed light” on the disease after they helped to raise a massive £122,000 for projects being funded by Rosemere Cancer Foundation that include ground-breaking research on diagnosing skin cancer using light technology.

Commercial pilot James Benjamin (25) and his brothers Alex (22), a business management student at Edge Hill University, and Oliver (19), who is studying business technology at Manchester Metropolitan University, raised the money by joining mum Deborah and some 60 plus family and friends in braving the chilly waters of Lake Windermere to take part in last year’s Great North Swim.

Their places were sponsored by local estate agency Matthews Benjamin and Fine & Country Lakes and North Lancashire, of which their dad David Benjamin was managing director and which, under its Charity Begins at Home scheme, makes a donation to Rosemere Cancer Foundation for every house sale that completes. They and their fellow swimmers then used the Just Giving website to raise sponsorship money.

Following the swim, the family held a fundraising celebration at Ambleside Rugby Club. Working closely with the Rosemere fundraising team, the family also helped secure a major grant of £100,000 for the charity’s work, which will fund a number of major projects for cancer patients in South Cumbria and Lancashire.

With all the money now in, the boys travelled to the region’s specialist cancer treatment centre, the Rosemere Cancer Centre at the Royal Preston Hospital, where their father had been a patient, to present it to Trust and Corporate Fundraiser Cathy Skidmore and his former consultant, Dr Ruth Board.

Dr Board, who also works as an honorary senior lecturer at Manchester University, is leading a project to determine whether a melanoma (skin cancer) fingerprint can be detected in the blood samples of skin cancer patients using spectroscopy.

Spectroscopy is a branch of chemistry that uses light technology to look for patterns that could be an indication of the disease. Already proving a new diagnostic tool for other cancers, if it works for melanomas, it could mean the development of a future screening blood test. Initially, the test could be offered to those already treated for the disease as some patients carry a higher risk of it returning. David, who was just 53-years-old when he died, had been treated for the condition a number of times.

Of the research and Benjamin family’s donation, Dr Board said: “Our work has been ongoing for the last 18 months or so and we have nearly 100 patients enrolled in the study. The work so far has been concentrating on optimising the technology and this money will allow the project to continue and allow the analysis of the patient samples.

“The additional funding will also help us recruit more patients to the study than originally planned.”

Rosemere Cancer Foundation spends the donations it receives on cutting edge equipment, research and training that cannot be funded by the NHS. The charity also funds those things that can make the cancer journey a little more comfortable such as free access to complementary therapies for all newly diagnosed patients, special chairs and portable DVD players and films for those undergoing chemotherapy and the creation of quiet rooms, information hubs and healing environments where treatment is given.

Over the last 12 months, the charity has invested £142,428 in projects to benefit local cancer patients being treated at hospitals in Kendal, Lancaster and Barrow.

Melanoma is the UK’s fifth most common cancer. Of those patients diagnosed with cutaneous melanoma (a melanoma that appears on the skin), between seven to 20 per cent fall into a high risk group of developing secondary cancerous tumours in other parts of the body.

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