Laura Pickering
Posted by
Laura Pickering

Invest in our vision – a future free from blood cancer

Laura Pickering
Posted by
Laura Pickering
29 Apr 2015

A gift left in a Will, big or small, is so important to blood cancer research.

Fiona Smart’s mum, Jennie, left a gift in her Will to Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, which funded research into leukaemia at the hospitals where Fiona was treated for acute myeloid leukaemia (AML).

I was in Canada when I was diagnosed with AML, but I was flown back to Edinburgh to start treatment immediately. I had brilliant care from the hospital doctors and my mum had a great respect for them – one of the reasons she wanted to support their
work with a gift in her Will.

My mum was a woman of real character – she was driven and determined. Her medical background – she was a physiotherapist with connections to hospitals in Edinburgh – meant that she always wanted to understand why I got AML. Of course, that’s very difficult, as there’s often no single cause of blood cancer. The gift in her Will was her way of investing in knowledge, and trying to help decipher why this disease happens so we can stop people getting it in the first place.

There’s such a big difference in the possibilities for patients compared to when I had blood cancer 30 years ago – the research that’s being done now is extraordinary. If I hadn’t been treated right away I’d have died within a week, but now it’s possible for people with AML to go on and lead a normal life.

But there’s still more to do. I want to see a day when we have a cure for blood cancer, when we understand what causes it and we can reduce the severity of the treatments we currently use – and I hope my mum’s gift will get us one step closer.


A gift left in a Will meant that we could keep making research discoveries.

Dr Adele Fielding, Dr Ghada Zakout and their team are researching acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) in older people at University College London.

Thanks to a very generous gift left to Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research in a Will, we’ve been able to look at how we can find the genetic faults that cause and drive ALL in patients over the age of 60. Although so far we’re still at the preliminary stage with our findings, we’re really excited about some of the things we’ve learnt.

We’ve found evidence for why ALL is more common in older people. The DNA in your cells is packaged into a number of chromosomes, and as cells get older, the protective caps at the ends of each chromosome get shorter. This is a normal effect on your chromosomes as you get older, but it means that more genetic faults and errors can creep into the DNA. This means that there’s a higher chance of the DNA changing and cells becoming cancerous, so we want to do more work to know for sure whether this is at play in ALL in older people.

From this, we’ve provisionally shown that ALL patients over 60 have more of these genetic faults and that these faults are more complex than in younger patients. This could be the reason why the outcomes for older patients tend to be less positive than for younger patients, and we’ll continue working to test this out.

We hope that our work will provide the foundation to find and develop tests that better predict and monitor patients’ response to treatment, which means we’ll be able to tailor a patient’s treatment to their needs. Without the generosity of people who give a gift in their Will, we wouldn’t have been able to make this difference.


For more information on leaving a gift in your Will and the difference this could make, call us on 020 7504 2299 or email us. You can also talk to us about The Goodwill Partnership, who offer a simple and trusted Will writing service.





You can read 'Together We Can', our 2015 supporter newsletter, here.