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The Jason Boas Fellowship

In November 2008, Jason Boas, a 34 year old accountant from London sadly lost his year-long fight with pancreatic cancer. During his illness, Jason set up an online network for young people suffering with cancer and raised £150,000 for research into pancreatic cancer. His family and friends have continued to raise funds in Jason's memory with a variety of highly successful fundraising events.

Following a generous donation to Action Against Cancer, The Jason Boas Fellowship was recently established at Imperial College. Here Jimmy Jacob, the recipient of the fellowship, talks about his work and motivations.

What is your position at Imperial College?
I am a Research Fellow.

What are you currently working on?
I am working very hard with my colleagues to find new drug targets for pancreatic cancer. We have identified three proteins that we think are particularly important in promoting both cancer growth and resistance to treatment. We are now trying to develop drugs to block the activity of these proteins and hopefully slow down pancreatic cancer and give hope to pancreatic cancer patients. I'm also working to find new biomarkers for pancreatic cancer with the hope of developing tests to diagnose the disease earlier.

Another big project I am helping with is focussed on developing a drug to compensate for the mutation of a gene called p53. This gene is known as 'the guardian of the genome' due to its pivotal role in preventing the growth of cancer. Most cancer sufferers, regardless of the location of their tumour(s), have a mutated p53 gene. If we develop a drug to perform the cancer preventing role of p53, it could lead to a huge advance in cancer care.

What motivates you on a day-to-day basis?
The five year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is under 4%, far lower than most cancer types. I am determined to help to raise this figure. Whilst conducting my experiments, the thought of those going through terrible suffering due to the devastating effects of cancer is never far from my mind. I am an academic, but my motivation lies beyond having my papers published - all of us in the team are determined to link the laboratory to the clinic and deliver new diagnostics and treatments to help cancer sufferers.

It is a great honour to hold this prestigious fellowship. Jason was a similar age to me when he sadly died. The warmth and humour he possessed in abundance are obvious to see on the online video blogs he made. It is clear that he had so much more to give. The hope of contributing towards the development of treatments that will save lives, and prevent further tragedies like Jason's passing from occurring is all the motivation I need to work hard and continue to learn under Professor Stebbing's inspirational guidance.

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