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Bob Willis fund supports prostate cancer research ahead of Blue for Bob Day

Bob Willis fund supports prostrate cancer research ahead of Blue for Bob Day
Bob Willis fund supports prostrate cancer research ahead of Blue for Bob Day
©Bob Willis Fund / Getty Images

Groundbreaking research that could see a targeted prostate cancer screening programme in the UK within the next three to five years has been given a boost by The Bob Willis Fund.

Since its launch last year, The Bob Willis Fund has raised over £500,000 to support research into better detection and diagnosis of prostate cancer, and hopes to raise more vital funds at the second #BlueForBob Day at England vs India Test Match at Edgbaston on 2nd July.

Research supported by the Fund includes a partnership with The Institute of Cancer Research, London, who are hoping to develop a targeted prostate cancer screening programme in the UK.

Ros Eeles, Professor of Oncogenetics at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR), says:

“My team is decoding the complexities of cancer genetics so that we can help more men survive prostate cancer. Our funding from The Bob Willis Fund will support our development of a targeted screening programme in the UK for prostate cancer. We believe that if our research is a success, we could have a programme up and running in the UK within three to five years, allowing us to spot many men earlier in their disease course when their cancer is easier to treat and potentially curable.”

Prostate cancer is the number one diagnosed male cancer in the UK, with one in eight men diagnosed in their lifetime. This rises to one in four for black men and, sadly, more than 11,500 men die from prostate cancer in the UK every year – that’s one man every 45 minutes.

Professor Eeles adds: “We are particularly interested in unravelling why Black men are at greater risk of prostate cancer. Black men are twice as likely as men of European ancestry to develop prostate cancer, and understanding why they have this increased risk profile will help us save lives.”

Bob Willis was regarded as one of the greatest fast bowlers of all time and was one of the heroes of England's legendary Headingley Ashes triumph over Australia in 1981, when he took 8-43 to herald a famous victory. He became England Cricket Captain in 1982, is an International Cricket Council Hall of Fame member, and was a much-loved Sky Sports broadcaster. He sadly died in December 2019, three years after his prostate cancer diagnosis.

Two of Bob’s former 1982 teammates - Geoff Miller and Allan Lamb - have since been affected by the same illness. It is a stark reminder of the urgent need to find better ways to diagnose and screen for prostate cancer to increase survival rates. It is what galvanised Bob’s wife, Lauren Clark, and brother, David, to set up the Fund.

Lauren says: “The pioneering research that Ros is undertaking will hopefully mean better screening programmes for prostate cancer allowing for earlier detection and better chance of survival. We need to crush those statistics of one man every 45 minutes dying from prostate cancer and ensure that Bob’s legacy continues to save lives by supporting crucial research like Ros’s.”

The Bob Willis Fund is also giving money to support Prostate Cancer UK’s important research into the earlier diagnosis of prostate cancer.

Prostate Cancer UK Director of Research, Doctor Matthew Hobbs said: “We’re extremely grateful that the Bob Willis Fund continues to support key Prostate Cancer UK research projects. Research is the only way we will understand more about prostate cancer and improve how we diagnose and treat the disease. Prostate Cancer UK funds a whole portfolio of brilliant research and, two of those projects – both focussed on improving how we diagnose prostate cancer - were selected by the Bob Willis Fund for support

“We desperately need better tests to diagnose prostate cancer. Tests that find more cancers earlier. Tests that could have found Bob’s cancer before it became incurable. Donations around #BlueForBob Day will allow the Bob Willis Fund to continue supporting Prostate Cancer UK to deliver the research that will get us those tests and will reduce the number of men dying from prostate cancer.”

Edgbaston will once again be turning #BlueForBob on day two of the England vs India test match on 2nd July in honour of Bob and to raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer. People are encouraged to wear a splash of blue if attending the game in order to support the cause.

The fund has the backing of former England player and coach David Lloyd, West-Indies legend Michael Holding, former England cricketer, broadcaster and Director of Cricket at Surrey Ebony Rainford-Brent, as well as former Prime Minister Sir John Major and broadcaster Piers Morgan. Sir Tim Rice is the patron of the Fund. Bob Willis’ musical hero Bob Dylan is the Fund’s honorary patron.

#BlueForBob Day is supported by Warwickshire County Cricket Club, The England and Wales Cricket Board, LV Insurance and Sky Sports Cricket. Sky will dedicate broadcasting on the day in Bob’s honour, including films with former England cricketer Allan Lamb on living with prostate cancer, a father and son from Marlow who both have had or are living with the illness, plus coverage of a challenge involving The Barmy Army, The Bharat Army, the Edgbaston crowd, and special guests, to bowl 2,000 balls in a day, which will represent the number of men who will get prostate cancer in the stadium that day.

Donations can be made at bobwillisfund.org/donate

Follow on Twitter @bobwillisfund and Instagram @bobwillisfund