There are few certainties in life, death and taxes, as the idiom says, being two of them. As I reach the ripe old age of 48 I can tell you some more I have learned in those years, some of which may even apply to this challenge. A friend for life is one of the most valuable things you can have, beyond measure even. A group of friends you have for life is exponentially more valuable still. These things you can’t put a price on. Nor can you put a price on a life lived, a life lengthened, and a quality of life enhanced by the science that has provided us with early diagnosis and treatments for cancer. Unfortunately what you can put a price on, is the monetary cost of that science.
I’ve spent 25 years or so as a cell biologist working in academic research, not always on cancer biology, but there have been plenty of projects that have had relevance to that field. I can tell you one cast iron fact I have learned in that time. Science is expensive. Really expensive. We’ve recently had a new microscope installed in my unit, a microscope that will give us data that we haven’t been able to achieve before, in larger quantities, more high throughput and higher quality. To put a rough price tag on it, we’re talking about £500,000. This is a massive investment obviously, and equipment like this is funded by Universities, Government Research Councils and charities. This microscope will be running for years and years providing insight into the biological processes that cause diseases including cancer, and I think it’s money well spent. What’s less obvious to the outsider is the running costs of such a machine, and how these add up. The service contract to ensure a microscope like this is well maintained, and to have access to highly trained engineers and parts to diagnose and repair any faults and keep the equipment running smoothly are very high indeed, running at tens of thousands of pounds a year. Now multiply this for all the microscopes in a department. We have two electron microscopes in my unit, and light microscopes running into double figures, some of them high end super resolution microscopes, some of them laser scanning confocal microscopes. In a relatively small institute like mine, you can see that just this one facet of research support requires a huge degree of resourcing just to keep the equipment running, to keep it working day and night (and they do run day AND night).
Cancer Research UK is one of those charities that helps fund crucial science, paying for frankly brilliant research from brilliant researchers and allowing us to continue to make strides in understanding and treating cancer. Without that money research would grind to a halt, and without charities like Cancer Research UK far less would be accomplished. We might not be able to pay to keep all of those microscopes running by ourselves with this challenge, but just as research moves forward inexorably one small step at a time, we can help raise the funds to allow Cancer Research UK to keep vital science moving £1 at a time. Every research step along the way brings us closer to life saving treatments, and every £1 of funding supports that.
Just like everyone in the UK, those invaluable friends I mentioned earlier and I have been affected by cancer, and will no doubt be so again in the future. So as we march in brotherhood on our challenge what do we have to do? We just need to follow the example; one step at a time up the hills and £1 at a time into those donations.
After all, for all those parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents and friends we have lost, and for all those we might save, isn’t each new step worth taking?