November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness month and Dr Kirsty Rhian Greenow was delighted to announce, on S4C, a major charitable donation to help fund research to find a cure.
The Welsh pancreatic cancer charity Amser Justin Time made a donation of £102,263.00, which will ensure that vital research continues. Pancreatic cancer currently has one of the lowest survival rates in Europe. It is also incredibly difficult to diagnose until the later stages of its development, when it is almost too late for any hope of recovery for the patient.
Thirty six year old Dr Greenow is at the forefront of the fight against cancer. She is a senior post doctoral research associate at the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute at Cardiff University. The ECSCRI opened in 2013 and as Dr Greenow explained, “It was set up specifically to research a new way of treating cancer.”
Dr Greenow compared treatment of cancer to the limbs of a tree. She explained that conventional cancer therapies only treat the branches and trunk of the tree at best, but never tackle the roots. “In many cancers the roots haven’t been identified so that’s why we see such high rates of relapse. The roots are the focus of cancer stem cell theory and research.”
The ECSCRI houses over fifty scientists researching life-threatening cancers including pancreatic, breast, colorectal, ovarian and brain cancers. They are united in their belief that cancer stem cells are responsible for the re-growth and spread of cancerous tumours.
Dr Greenow has dedicated more than a decade of her life to cancer research. Ironically her teacher told her she would never become a doctor, after she failed her first mock A-level biology exam.
She chose to ignore her teacher and went on to achieve a degree in biochemistry and molecular biology and then a further PhD, becoming Dr Greenow in 1996. She was always passionate about science, even from a very young age and despite lack of early encouragement she has become a leader in her field.
When questioned how donations are spent Dr Greenow answered, “The ECSCRI is completely non profit so every penny donated is spent on research into finding a cure for cancer. Overall, funding has been cut so every donation we receive helps to ensure this vital work continues.”
Dr Greenow’s days are relentlessly long and her dedication extends to working voluntarily every weekend, in order to fully supervise her ongoing experiments. She works with the precision of a surgeon in the research laboratory. There is a steely determination in her eyes – it is clear she is very driven and a highly focused woman.
When asked the difficult question of how far they are from discovering a cure for cancer she replied, “We really are making progress every day. We are much closer to identifying which cells actually cause the disease. Once we make that break through we really can treat cancer far more effectively and begin to win the fight against this terrible disease.”
ECSCRI video explains cancer stem cell research