Looking back at our Emergency Appeal

In March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity launched an Emergency Appeal to raise urgently needed funds to support patients and staff at The Royal Marsden.

Thanks to generous donations from supporters like you, the Appeal raised a total of £2 million. You can read below about how funding from the Emergency Appeal has made a vital difference to the hospital’s patients and staff over the course of the pandemic.

Technological advances

Due to government guidelines, in March The Royal Marsden closed to visitors. However, Emergency Appeal donors made it possible for patients to stay in contact with their friends and families, when they needed it most, by providing Charity-funded iPads and virtual visiting apps for patients who couldn’t use their personal devices or do not have a device of their own.

Research into COVID-19 and cancer

The funds raised are also supporting a number of critical research studies to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on cancer patients. In May clinical and research teams at The Royal Marsden and The Francis Crick Institute launched the CAPTURE study to understand the interactions between a patient’s immunity, COVID-19, the cancer, and cancer treatment.

Preliminary data from the CAPTURE study, presented at the American Association of Cancer Research conference (AACR),  has shown that a wide range of antibody levels and COVID-19 specific T-cells were detected in 30 per cent of cancer patients, comparable levels to those that do not have cancer, but the potential impact of cancer type on their immune response must still be considered for further analysis.

Dr Samra Turajlic in lab

Consultant Medical Oncologist, Dr Samra Turajlic (pictured left) who is leading the study, has also identified that patients with blood cancers have specific defects that impact their immune response. These defects may make these patients more vulnerable to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.

These results will potentially help to inform care plans for each patient and in some cases, allow clinicians to confidently resume treatment, whilst also offering important insights into the COVID vaccine response in cancer populations.

The OCTAPUS-AI study, led by Dr Richard Lee, Consultant Physician in Respiratory Medicine and Champion for Early Cancer Diagnosis, has used the latest technology to benefit cancer patients. The study uses artificial intelligence to analyse scans and provide clinicians with information on whether changes in the lungs are due to COVID-19, a different infection, or a side effect of treatment. This will ensure patients receive the right treatment for their condition.

Psychological Support

For the past five years The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity has funded a service that provides expert guidance and counselling to any members of staff who need support. During the pandemic, staff counsellors reported a rise in anxiety, panic attacks and compassion fatigue meaning that this service was needed more than ever. Funds raised from the Emergency Appeal have allowed us to recruit more counsellors, helping to provide more of this vital service for staff during the pandemic.

This story is part of our 2019/20 impact report. Read the full report here.

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