Dame Deborah James ‘enlightened a generation to the risks of cancer’, says her top doctor | The Sun

DAME Deborah James' doctor has said her legacy will save lives and "stand the test of time".

Professor David Cunningham, Director of Clinical Research at The Royal Marsden, told BBC Radio 5Live that Debs, who died of Stage 4 bowel cancer last year aged 40, had saved lives with her campaigning.

Professor Cunningham said it was down to her "fantastic, vibrant, engaging personality and because she used social media incredibly effectively."

That winning combination meant Dame Debs reached huge numbers of people.

Professor Cunningham said: "She was able to utilise social media in a very positive way to increase awareness to engage with people who otherwise were not really engaged with cancer.

"She was able to enlighten many younger people to the risks of the disease and the importance of trying to make a diagnosis as early as possible and to seek medical attention if symptoms develop that might be related to cancer.

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"It was a pretty special thing she did, and when all’s said and done, that will stand the test of time."

One of the lasting impacts Sun columnist Debs will have, is how she championed finding and developing new treatments.

It's something her Bowelbabe fund – which has raised more than £7 million for cancer research – will help bring to life.

Professor Cunningham said: "She had a great belief in the science of medicine and the ability for advances of science to impact on clinical care.

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"One of the great things about the money that was raised and will be utilised by the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, is to actually drive forward those innovations that really impact on clinical care, because there’s a lot going on out there and it’s about pulling that through to the clinical scenario as efficiently and effectively as possible."

He explained that the future of cancer care is coming and could involve 'personalised' care, targeted drugs specifically tailored to the genetic make-up of tumours and even measuring tiny amounts of DNA from blood could "tell us they have cancer even before they develop symptoms or even before the disease becomes visible using standard imaging techniques."

It is, he says, "an exciting time" and Deborah's role in raising awareness and funds can't be overstated.

His words come as a special live episode of You, Me and the Big C – the podcast Deborah hosted alongside Steve Bland and Lauren Mahon – was released to celebrate five years of the podcast's achievements, and the fact Lauren and Steve are stepping down from the show.

Professor Cunningham said the podcast is a great resource for people dealing with cancer: "It’s educational, it tells the direction of travel of cancer care and also gives them broader support of, they're not alone.

"One in two people will develop cancer now and there are people out there and patients derive enormous support from that."

Listen to the special live episode of You, Me and the Big C now, on BBC Sounds.

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