Family launch brain tumour Christmas tree appeal in aid of lost wife and mother

Marine biologist Caroline Cronin was remembered in Plymouth as her husband and daughter launched a Christmas appeal for the charity Brain Tumour Research.

Marcus, 36, and Florence, two-and-a-half, are inviting people to take part in the charity’s Hope Tree Appeal at its Centre of Excellence at Plymouth University.

Caroline worked at the National Marine Aquarium and was studying for her masters at the University when she was diagnosed with grade 4 glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and aggressive form of brain tumour. She set her heart on getting married and having a baby and achieved both these things before her death in October 2013 at the age of 32.

Marcus, who teaches media at Lipson Co-operative Academy, marked the second anniversary of Caroline’s death by completing a 120 mile running challenge in Portugal. He followed the Rota Vincenta coastal path, setting out from Sagres where the couple spent their first holiday. He finished in Sines where they had their last holiday together while Caroline was expecting Florence. The event raised more than £5,000 for Brain Tumour Research and the Marine Conservation Society.

This Christmas, little Florence and her father are hoping for a brighter future for other families who are affected by brain tumours. They are inviting people to join them in fundraising to support the vital work of the centre by sending a donation and writing a message of hope on a bauble.

The decorations are being hung on Hope Trees at Plymouth University and the other Brain Tumour Research Centres of Excellence at the University of Portsmouth, Queen Mary University of London, Imperial College, London and at the charity’s HQ in Milton Keynes.

Marcus, of Commercial Road, Plymouth, said: 

“Before Caroline’s diagnosis, we had no idea that brain tumours kill more children and adults under the age of 40 than any other cancer in the UK … yet this area has received just one per cent of the national spend on cancer research. Caroline was infuriated about how little money went into researching this disease and I am determined to do all I can in her memory to increase awareness of brain tumours and fundraising to help find a cure. Florence and I are asking people to think of the many families like ours which have been affected by this cruel illness and support the Hope Tree Appeal. Every pound given today will support life-saving research tomorrow.”

Professor Oliver Hanemann, Associate Dean Research at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry and who leads the Plymouth Brain Tumour Research Centre of Excellence, commented: 

“Our thanks go to Marcus and his family for the support they have shown Brain Tumour Research, which in turn helps to back our research. The support of local individuals and businesses is hugely important and helps us to find suitable and effective therapies to combat brain tumours.”

The research team in Plymouth are focusing on identifying and understanding the mechanism that makes a cell become cancerous. They are exploring ways in which to halt or reverse that mechanism. An innovation will be testing new drugs in human primary cell cultures leading to innovative phase 0 trials. It is hoped this will be followed by adaptive phase II/III trials with the potential for making drug therapies available to patients safely and more quickly.

A day of research costs £2,740, while £1,000 helps publish peer-reviewed papers and £300 pays for the specialist equipment required for one day of research. Supporters are invited to donate from £10 upwards to take part in this inspirational display of hope.

Sue Farrington Smith, Chief Executive of Brain Tumour Research, said: 

“Too many families such as Marcus’s will feel the pain of a loved one missing at this time of year. We are striving to fund a network of seven dedicated research centres whilst challenging the government and larger cancer charities to invest more in brain tumour research. Help us fund the fight. Together we will find a cure.”