Wimbledon charity night raises money for pioneering new cancer treatment

A Wimbledon couple brought their community together on October 13 at a dance-themed auction, designed to generate funds for the new “CAR-T” leukaemia therapy.

Alison and Eoin Kelly, both teachers, have been holding events similar to “Get Up and Boogie” since 2009, when they started the community association “Rose’s Gift”.

Named after their daughter Rose, a survivor of Infant ALL (Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia), the organisation has raised over £200,000 for several charities that combat child cancer, including the Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity, Children with Cancer UK and Momentum.

Mrs Kelly, who gave an emotional speech detailing the hardships of Rose’s treatment, said: “We felt the need to raise awareness of Infant ALL. Although general leukaemia now has a great survival rate, Infant ALL still has a very poor prognosis. We hope that in time more research will be successful but as such a small number of babies are diagnosed every year it is harder to dedicate funding to such a minority.”

Local resident and fellow cancer-survivor Katy Lees has been involved with the Rose’s Gift charity since the beginning and said: “It was amazing to actually see what a community of people can help to achieve!”

The Kellys believe the development of new types of treatment, such as the “CAR-T” therapy, is vital for improving the chances of babies diagnosed with this aggressive disease.

“It is with immense pride that we raised £27,500 which we donated directly to this research. Our main reason is of course to help to reach the common aim of finding gentler, more targeted and less harmful treatments for leukaemia and other cancers and greater survival rates,” said Mrs Kelly.

Hailed as a “game changer” by NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens, the new treatment transplants cells from the patient’s blood into genetically-engineered cells designed to “hunt” the cancer. Dr Alasdair Rankin of Bloodwise, the UK’s leading blood cancer research charity, agreed, saying: “CAR-T cell therapy is the most exciting advance in treatment for childhood leukaemia for decades.”

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