A top surgeon is cycling to Spain with the son of one of his patients to raise £100,000 for research into the cancer known as the “silent killer”.
Professor Nigel Heaton, from King’s College hospital, volunteered to join James Lane on the 900-mile ride from London to Barcelona to raise awareness of the increasing threat posed by liver cancer.
Mr Lane’s father Christopher died aged 67 in July 2011, eight months after being diagnosed. He had been “very fit and active” and his family was devastated at his sudden decline.
“There seemed to be very little that could be done,” Mr Lane, 40, a lawyer at Ricoh’s head office in Euston, said. “I wanted to try to make some good out of bad.
“I watched my father deteriorate at a rapid rate over such a short period of time and it was absolutely soul-destroying. It absolutely knocked his friends and family for six.”
The pair will be joined on the 11-day ride, beginning on Saturday [May 16] by 32 riders, many from Ricoh’s offices across the globe. Mr Lane, a married father of two from Henley, said his father would have been very proud of his efforts – but would have thought him “mad”.
More than 5,000 people die each year from liver cancer. The number of cases of liver cancer in men has increased by 70 per cent in a decade.
Less than a third of patients survive a year after diagnosis, and only around 12 per cent live for five years. Rising obesity rates have fuelled the incidence of liver cancer, which often has no symptoms in its early stages.
Professor Heaton said: “It is one of the few cancers which is rapidly increasing in frequency. If you went back 20 years it was relatively rare. Now we are seeing at King’s 500 new patients a year.
“If you can recognise it early then cure rates are high. The majority of patients present late. Often then, we have relatively few treatments to manage them.”
A total of 243 liver transplants were performed at King’s, in Denmark Hill, last year – including 42 in children. The hospital has 180 patients on a transplant waiting list.
The funds will used on research projects at the Institute of Liver Studies at King’s, the leading centre in Europe for the treatment of liver cancer, to find new treatments.
“If we can recognise cancer early, we can treat it effectively and avoid such expensive treatments as liver transplantation,” Prof Heaton said.