cancer under the microscope

Who would think visiting a science lab could be quite so emotional? All those test tubes, petri dishes and cells.  Cells upon cells being dyed, coded, observed, analysed.  As it happened, the awe and full-on admiration of the work being carried out in this particular cancer lab brought proper tears to my eyes.


cells are stained with “Crystal Violet” so that surviving cell colonies can be counted

I should first explain my visit last Friday to the white coats of the School of Cancer Sciences at the University of Birmingham. Under the supervision of Dr Jo Morris*, this team of 8 strong scientists is the one I have my money on.  To crack the BRCA mutation code, of course.  Quite simply, I feel Jo’s overwhelming determination (over the last 15 years) to get to the bottom of this defective breast and ovarian cancer gene.

cancer under the microscope

School of Cancer Sciences

Helen is one of Jo’s PhD students – she takes a closer look at the BRCA1 dysfunction

The emotion, centred around this deadly disease which ends and ruins lives, stems from my very own BRCA journey. (on my About page you’ll find more on this).  And my continued interest?   Well, from a personal perspective, I want Mini and any other possible BRCA gene mutation carriers to have more choices than my generation has had to avoid the inconceivably high risk of getting the disease.

I look at her innocent, happy face and often wonder if she carries the faulty gene.   I dread her working out why I had those operations.  And, like all mothers, I pray nothing bad will ever happen to her.


an innocent Mini jumps around the garden in her pyjamas

It seems everyone has been touched by cancer in some form or other.  Sadly, we all know someone who has had their regular life stripped away from them and dealt in its place a new life with a cancer scar.

one of Jo's team talks us through her work in progress

Kirsty is another of Jo’s PhD students and talks us through her work in progress

Read my interview with Jo Morris here.

P1040378Dr Jo Morris’ team desperately needs further financing.  Already they are making crucial discoveries but we need to help them to make more. One day cancer will be a treatable disease and that day can’t come soon enough.

Email Hannah:  or call her direct line: 020 7749 3722 at Breast Cancer Campaign to discuss how you can donate. Big or small, it will help.

*Dr Jo Morris is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Cancer Sciences and Breast Cancer Campaign Research Fellow.??Jo has published research papers in scientific journals as well as reviews and book chapters in the fields of breast cancer genetics, particularly about the predisposition gene BRCA1, the cellular response to DNA damage and small modifier biology of ubiquitin and SUMO. She has research grants from the Breast Cancer Campaign and CancerResearch.

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