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Family help fund cancer research

PUBLISHED: 09:31 22 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:49 06 July 2010

WHEN cancer sufferer Tony Long was told he might not live to celebrate his ruby wedding anniversary, he pledged to help others by leaving a legacy.

Now thanks to the Lowestoft businessman's generosity, cancer researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have made an advance in their understanding of head and neck cancers.

WHEN cancer sufferer Tony Long was told he might not live to celebrate his ruby wedding anniversary, he pledged to help others by leaving a legacy.

Now thanks to the Lowestoft businessman's generosity, cancer researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have made an advance in their understanding of head and neck cancers.

Funded by the Anthony Long Charitable Trust, a UEA study published today identifies a number of previously unknown enzymes likely to cause head and neck cancer.

The enzymes, known as proteinases, influence tumour growth and it is hoped the discovery will ultimately lead to improved prediction, diagnosis and treatment of the disease.

Mr Long, whose family used to run Longs Dairies, was diagnosed with cancer of the parotid gland - a salivary gland in the neck - in 1997.

Despite surgery to remove the tumour and periods of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, the cancer spread to the lungs and Mr Long died in 2003, aged 60, after a six-year-battle against the disease.

Mr Long's widow Janet said: “We decided to form the Anthony Long Charitable Trust when it became obvious his was an unusual type of cancer and insufficient research was being carried out in the field of head and neck cancers generally.

“The survival rate is well below that of most other cancers and not enough is known about how it is formed and how to treat it. Hopefully by helping to fund cutting edge research at UEA we can work to achieve better survival rates for future sufferers.”

It was during a visit to his oncologist that Mr Long asked for a brutally honest opinion about his illness.

“At one point he said 'you might make your 60th birthday but I do not think you are going to make your ruby wedding the following year,'” said Mrs Long.

“It was at that point Tony thought he would like to do something, he would like to leave a legacy, something people would remember him by, so other people did not have to go through what he went through.”

Mr Long joined the Longs Dairies family business after leaving school and was director until it was sold to Dairy Crest in 1999. A well-respected businessman, he was also a semi-professional musician, entertaining audiences in the area for more than 30 years.

The father-of-two did not smoke or drink and there was no family history of the disease.

The trust was set up before Mr Long died and he stipulated funds should be used for research into head and neck cancer, if possible in the East Anglia region.

Head and neck cancers, which include tumours of the nose, mouth and throat, are among the most aggressive forms of cancer.

They affect half a million new patients worldwide each year, yet the causes in most cases remain unknown and, unless detected early, mortality rates are high.

The trust has funded a number of projects under the guidance of Professor Dylan Edwards, a leading cancer specialist at UEA's school of biological sciences, and colleagues at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH).

These include helping to fund a postgraduate researcher at UEA, an oncology nurse at NNUH, and a study into the symptoms of head and neck cancer at NNUH by Mr Long's oncologist, Dr Craig Martin.

Future projects will include a NNUH study into the lasting effects of head and neck cancers and the appointment of a senior ear, nose and throat lecturer at the James Paget University Hospital.

“Though still in its early stages, our research is already significantly improving our knowledge of this little understood but devastating form of cancer,” said Prof Edwards who led the new study.

“Without the generous funds provided by the family of Tony Long, none of this work would be possible.”

The study is published in the US journal Clinical Cancer Research today.

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