We must support scientists in the search for solutions

Olive Boles

19th October 2016

Our Chief Executive Olive Boles recently featured in the Camden New Times to discuss Leuka and our need to support scientists in their research to fight blood cancers.

“She has worked as a senior executive at Highgate’s Whittington Hospital, just a stone’s throw from her own home, seeing at first hand the day to day difficulties the NHS bravely overcomes and the many lives it saves. She has worked too for Prince Charles getting international businesses involved in his sustainability and environmental efforts – “a real charmer, who never gives up,” she insists. But while the Irish eyes of Olive Boles keep shining, she is facing her toughest task as chief executive of Leuka, the charity that has provided millions of pounds to support research into leukaemia and specialist blood cancer treatment.

Over the past 18 months Leuka has been targeting their funding to support 10 of the brightest and best scientists working at hospitals and research centres from Southampton in the south to Glasgow in the north with London, Leeds and Newcastle leading major work too on finding cures for the blood disorder.

She is determined, focused and full of ideas. “But at times of austerity it is not always easy to raise the funding we need, to enable the promising research that has begun to come to fruition in what is an ongoing challenge.” admits Olive who equally has concerns over the funding effects of Brexit. “We are one of the smaller charities and so do not have the resources to advertise on TV. We receive no government funding and rely on the generosity of those who themselves have often had to face the grim prospect of seeing a member of their family or a friend die, and all the ensuing grief.

“We live in difficult times with uncertainty ahead, as everyone is aware, especially in the NHS, and not forgetting our future outside Europe,” Olive points out. “The challenge we face at Leuka is the equivalent of that confronted by our Olympic heroes in far off Rio. Finding a cure for cancer is test of endurance. But what Leuka is seeking is not a gold medal for sporting prowess but future funding to fight blood cancers through the work of inspirational scientists across the country who remarkably come from round the world – from Taiwan, Canada, Iceland and even Russia – to work in the UK because of its global reputation as a centre of scientific and clinical excellence.

“Their task – and mine – is dedicated to save the lives of some 20 people a day diagnosed with leukaemia, a type of blood cancer. To do that we have to raise more funding to support our committed scientists in their amazing research to find solutions. It can be a frustrating struggle as some successful treatments have been found but it is then discovered that the side-effects they produce make them impossible to introduce, the cure sometimes proving worse than the disease.

“But I am dedicated to the Leuka cause, as I can empathise with those whose lives are devastated by the disease, and I sincerely hope we can inspire people to give generously to Leuka to ensure that research into blood cancers continues.”

Olive, who is married with two grown-up children, is particularly gratified by people’s generosity that often proves overwhelming. Volunteers who help the cause – including supporters who take part in community fundraising and events such as the star studded golf day organised by actor/golfer Dougray Scott – is absolutely critical.

In fact the largest slice of its funding has come from a unique annual gathering courtesy of Four Seasons Park Lane where dinner for 200 is cooked by 20 mystery celebrity chefs who perform for free followed by an auction of the chefs themselves staged by Sotheby’s. For instance, Leuka has just moved to a new office in Portland Place, Westminster, generously provided pro bono by the property specialists Davis Coffer Lyons and refurbished by Maris Interiors, again donated for free because they appreciate Leuka’s mission to defeat blood cancer.

“We are doing our utmost to bring back some happiness into the lives of those who suddenly find themselves afflicted It is an exciting time for discovery into better treatments for cancer and Leuka is determined to play a pivotal role. Do please help us”, is Olive’s plea.

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Article written by Gerald Isaaman.