Cancer victims inspire hospital marathon team to go extra miles in Big Apple

"We must stop this suffering."

That’s the message from a local MP, who has urged local people to back Southampton Hospital’s cancer medics’ bid to raise £100,000 for research into oesophaegal cancer by running the famous New York Marathon on November 3rd.


The team of six medics, based at Southampton Hospital, hope to raise the money for Cancer Research UK to undertake more vital research into how to better treat oesophageal cancer, one of the most difficult cancers to diagnose and treat.

The ‘Cancer Marathon Team’ have already raised just over £10,000 for the cause.

Eastleigh MP Mike Thornton was speaking after a visit to Southampton Hospital’s specialist Cancer Unit at Somers Building, where he met with ‘Cancer Marathon’ team members Clinical Nurse Specialist Donna Sharland (pictured, middle right), and Tim Underwood (pictured, left), an Oesophageal surgeon and researcher at the University of Southampton.

Currently just 1 in 10 people diagnosed with oesphaegal cancer in the UK stay alive for 5 years or more after diagnosis, making it one of the most deadly cancers. Latest figures show that the number of people with the disease has doubled in the last 30 years.

In Southampton alone, 300 patients were referred for review and treatment in 2012 for the disease, up from 160 in 2001. Less than a quarter of those patients were suitable for surgery to cure their cancer.

Clinical Nurse Specialist Donna Sharland is one of the medics running the marathon on November 3rd. She was motivated to get involved after seeing the terrible effects the disease can have on families.

Donna said, "Over the last 12 years I have witnessed so much suffering by countless families. I have dedicated my run to the memory of a man called Gary Coleman, a soldier from Hampshire who died of his cancer only a week after the birth of his daughter.

"My personal motivation is to help fund the research to hopefully beat cancer of the oesophagus", Donna added.

Eastleigh MP Mike Thornton said:

"I have to admit I had little knowledge about oesophageal cancer before speaking with Tim and Donna, and I was shocked to hear how rapidly the number of cases is rising.

"The impact this disease can have on individuals and their loved ones can be devastating, and clearly much more needs to be done to raise awareness of both the symptoms and the risk factors of oesophageal cancer, which include smoking and drinking alcohol, and obesity.

"Donna, Tim and their colleagues are an inspiration, and I will certainly be cheering them on from this side of the pond next month.

"Local people are rightly proud of Southampton Hospital and its staff - the hospital's record of fighting and treating cancer is outstanding. I’d urge everyone to get behind the Marathon Team to help them achieve their £100,000 target– every penny you donate will go towards finding ways to beat this terrible disease."

To find out more about how you can help combat oesophageal cancer or donate to the cause, please visit

Notes to editor:

- Oesophageal cancer- a cancer which affects the food pipe- is the ninth most common cancer in the UK, yet diagnosis and treatment of the disease is very difficult.

- Latest figures show that 8,500 people are diagnosed with oesophageal cancer each year, with men almost three times more likely to get the disease than women.

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