How Just the Ten-of-Us 65 Years Ago Got Together to Raise Money – and Became the Cancer Research Charity Tenovus

By Madeleine Brindley

ON AUGUST 24, 1943, Cardiff-based haulage contractor Eddie Price was unloading heavy machinery when one of the lathes fell on him, pinning him to the ground.

He would spend the next three months recovering from his injuries in the old Cardiff Royal Infirmary.

In her history of Tenovus, Anna Marie Lovelock recalls that the charity also has its roots in a gesture of goodwill between Mr Price and founding chairman David Edwards, when Mr Price came to the latter’s rescue when he ran out of petrol earlier that year.

Speaking in 1993 Mr Price said: “This troubled Mr Edwards deeply and he said to his wife: ‘This chap did me a good turn. Now I’m going to do one for him.’ “He used all the influence he could command, and it was a great deal in Cardiff at the time, to bring the five finest specialists in the city to my bedside.

“It took three months to recover but I left on my feet rather than in a coffin. Starting from those meetings around my bed, he became the driving force.

“The rest of us ran small businesses but he knew how to bring powerful men together and how to raise money. Compared to him, we were little boys paddling along in his wake.”

When one of his friends brought him a portable radio that Mr Price was unable to use without disturbing other patients on the ward, his friends decided as a gesture of thanks to the hospital, they would equip all the beds with radio headsets.

As contributions started to grow for the appeal, they decided that they needed a name for this new group. As there were nine friends, and with Eddie they were ten, they called themselves Ten- of-us.

For the first few decades Tenovus concentrated on local community projects and played a leading role in the Burma, Sunshine and Danybryn Homes, Lovelock said. At the same time, the group developed close links with local hospitals and medical professionals.

The charity decided to focus its attention on medical research and care and in the 1960s Tenovus raised funds to set up a spin a bifida unit and the Tenovus Institute for Cancer Research.

Mr Edwards cut the first sod in 1964 on the site of Tenovus Institute for Cancer Research, in Cardiff for research into causes of cancer and to attempt to find a cure. Three years later Tenovus laboratories were set up at Velindre Radiotherapy Hospital, also in Cardiff.

In the intervening years, Tenovus has been at the forefront of cancer research – the Tenovus Centre for Cancer Research, in the Welsh School of Pharmacy, in Cardiff, is one of the most respected cancer research centres in the world with a history of successes.

Robert Nicholson, professor of cancer pharmacology and director of Tenovus cancer research centre completed a PhD with the support of Tenovus in 1972 and has worked for the charity since 1975.

He said: “As scientists, we have seen massive advances in cancer research over the last 30 years and we now have a much greater understanding of why cancer arises and the molecular alterations in cells that lead to cancer.

“With improvements in technology, this is set to continue and it makes our job one of the most exciting in the world.

“The majority of Tenovus’ previous research was focused on pre- clinical testing and clinical trials.

“Pre-clinical work is based in the laboratory and involves developing model systems for breast and prostate cancer. We take human cancer cells, grow them in our incubators and treat them with new anti-cancer drugs to monitor their efficacy.

“Although this process can take several years to complete, it is necessary before we can move to the clinical trial stage.”

An early success to come from the Tenovus Cancer Research Centre was the drug tamoxifen, which has become famous for its success in treating breast cancer.

The charity’s researchers were the first to show that the drug halted the growth of breast cancer cells. Tamoxifen has gone on to become established as the world’s most successful, and widely-used, breast cancer therapy – it is thought to have saved the lives of as many as 30% of all women diagnosed with the disease.

In the 1980s Tenovus trialled and tested Zoladex – the breast and prostate cancer drug, which is still in widespread use – followed in the 1990s by Iressa, which targets the cancer-causing gene the epidermal growth factor receptor.

Professor Nicholson said: “Personally, the highlight of the role I play in the centre is to see the drugs that we test in the laboratories being used to the benefit of the cancer patient.

“Looking forward, the future of Tenovus research will focus on understanding the mechanisms whereby cancer cells develop resistance to drugs such as tamoxifen – a phenomenon that limits their effectiveness. Importantly, initial success has shown that the targeting of such mechanisms in the laboratory is highly effective in killing the tumour cells and excitingly can dramatically delay – and in some cases even prevent – the development of resistance in the laboratory.

“If translated clinically, such approaches could significantly improve the outlook for many breast cancer patients.”

In addition to research, Tenovus has also concentrated on supporting people with cancer.

The Tenovus Cancer Information Centre was established at Velindre Hospital in 1983 and the Tenovus cancer helpline celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Over the years the charity has funded social workers, counsellors, welfare rights advisers and specialist oncology nurses – the first organisation to do so.

As the cancer challenge in Wales changes – there are more cases of the disease but survival rates are improving with the advent of earlier detection and newer treatments. Tenovus will also adjust its focus, concentrating on bringing services closer to patients and actively contributing to the health awareness in local communities.

By the end of the year the charity will launch its mobile unit, which is designed to bring support, treatment and prevention messages into local communities, in partnership with the NHS.

It will be also opening a network of local support centres, to offer support, advice and information to people who have cancer, or who have experienced cancer and their families and loved ones.

Claudia McVie, chief executive of Tenovus, said: “Looking back over the last 65 years, it is incredibly rewarding to see the difference Tenovus has made to the lives of so many people affected by cancer.

“This not only includes the Tenovus-funded research which has saved the lives of millions of breast cancer patients, or the pioneering work on antibody therapies that has now lead to so many new cancer treatments being used in the clinic, but also the support, treatment and care from our social workers, counsellors and nurses which have helped many thousands of families through one of the most difficult journeys imaginable.

“As a charity that receives no government funding, these achievements have only been possible through the amazing fundraising efforts of the public and the incredible hard work and diligence of our staff and volunteers.

“One in three of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetimes, and with an aging population, an ever increasing rate of cancer and an incidence of cancer in Wales that is already 22% higher than in England, this vital support and commitment is now more important than ever.

“The increasing incidence of cancer means that the needs of cancer patients in Wales are changing, and we are changing to meet those needs.

“Following extensive consultation with patients, clinicians and fellow cancer care providers, we have developed an innovative and unique strategy that will bring cancer treatment, support, and research into the community, closer to the people who are actually affected by this terrible disease.

“We will be achieving this through a network of local cancer support centres based in communities and a series of mobile units that will be able to deliver chemotherapy to patients closer to their home as well as all the support, care and counselling they and their families need.

“We will also be looking at ways of working in partnership with communities to develop together the health promotion messages and cancer prevention messages that could prevent as many as half of all people from developing cancer in the first instance.

“This holistic, community focussed approach to tackling cancer is truly innovative and will be unique to Wales, but big problems need bold solutions.”

Fundraising

Three dance teachers arranged a dancing show at the New Theatre, Cardiff in the 1960s. The Tenovus Dance Fantasia became an annual event raising thousands;

Legacy income and money in lieu of flowers has always been an important income for Tenovus. In 1975, a nine-year old girl died in the neurosurgery department of University Hospital of Wales and money in lieu of flowers was sent to Tenovus. The money included a significant gift from the girl’s grandfather and pounds 3 from the girl’s money-box;

Welsh schools have been instrumental in the fundraising effort. In 1978, three pupils from Rumney High School walked from Cardiff to Land’s End;

Until the mid-’80s, Junior Tenovus – a group of parents and children – raised large sums through flag days and barbecues;

In 1998, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Ioan Grufydd launched the Rough Guide to Cancer for Welsh schools and youth clubs. Following this, Ioan Grufydd fans in the US and Australia donated EUR3,000;

The Tenovus Lottery raised sums as high as pounds 2m;

There are 65 Tenovus charity shops located over Wales and the South of England – in the 1960s one of these sold a bag formerly owned by Queen Mary;

Tenovus launched the Purple Ribbon campaign raising awareness of male cancer in the ’90s;

Companies including Marks & Spencer, Barclays, HSBC and Buy As You View donate through the payroll giving scheme;

Future fundraising initiatives will include abseils in Cardiff, Swansea and Newport for Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October and a candlelight service on December 6, at Llandaff Cathedral with Treorchy Male Voice Choir and Howell’s School Choir;

But perhaps the biggest opportunity for Tenovus will be in 2010 when it becomes the official charity of the Ryder Cup, which will be held at the Celtic Manor, in Newport.

(c) 2008 Western Mail. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.

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