Blue Day fundraiser set to return as Priory School takes the baton from Tom Prince’s family

IT WAS the catalyst for a campaign that united the city and raised £1million for vital research into a rare form of bone cancer.

Friday, 18th January 2019, 9:18 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 5:45 pm
Alan Knight, Stewart Vaughan, Maureen Prince, Adele Prince, Peter Prince and Dr Adrienne Flanagan with some of the dance pupils from Priory School. Picture: Sarah Standing (170119-6257)

Now Blue Day, in memory of Tom Prince, is set to return – and the mantle to reignite it has been picked up by staff and pupils at his old school in Portsmouth. 

Priory School will relaunch the fundraiser on May 3 as they continue more than a decade of work by Tom Prince’s family, after the 15-year-old died of osteosarcoma in 2004. 

It follows the final Blue Day organised by the Tom Prince Cancer Trust in 2018 – the charity set up by loved ones of the Pompey-mad youngster. 

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Stewart Vaughan, Priory School’s headteacher, said: ‘In its existing form Blue Day was going to come to an end and the family asked us if we would be willing to pick up the mantle. 

‘To get involved was an easy decision and this is an opportunity to remember Tom and  show our respect for the work his family has done.

‘We are in awe of them – they are genuinely wonderful people – and we are hugely honoured to carry on their work.’ 

The Tom Prince Cancer Trust reached its long-term fundraising goal of £1m in 2016 and donated it to University College London (UCL).

With the institution now carrying out vital research into osteosarcoma using the cash, Tom’s family said now is the right time to wind the charity down. 

Money raised through future instalments of Blue Day will go straight to the Tom Prince Osteosarcoma Research Project, led by UCL’s Professor Adrienne Flanagan. 

Tom’s mum, Adele Prince, said: ‘Being the school that Tom went to Priory has always supported Blue Day – and right away Mr Vaughan was interested when we asked if the school would like to carry it on. 

‘We’re really pleased as a family we kept on and did it for as long as we did but we are all getting a bit older and a bit tired.’ 

She added: ‘I’m really excited to see how things develop with a whole new group of people involved.’ 

Pupils at Priory School were given an introduction to Blue Day at an assembly held yesterday. 

Among other things, they learned the £1m raised by the Tom Prince Cancer Trust was the largest single sum ever donated to osteosarcoma research. 

And in the months leading up to May 3 they will get involved with a number of fun activities to raise their own contributions – including non-school uniform days, quiz nights and cooking competitions. 

Mr Vaughan added: ‘This feels very personal to us because we were with Tom throughout his education and his illness. 

‘We hope to get as many partners in the city involved in Blue Day because it is wonderful event that brings people together in the community.’ 

Previously backed by The News, schools across the city and Portsmouth Football Club, Blue Day sees people raise cash through a range of blue-themed activities – an ode to Tom’s support for Pompey. 

 

How is the £1m raised by Blue Day being spent?

As part of a soft launch for Priory School’s Blue Day held yesterday, pupils enjoyed an enlightening assembly led by Professor Adrienne Flanagan.

She is a professor in pathology at UCL’s cancer institute and a consultant pathologist at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital. 

On what has happened so far with the money raised by Blue Day, she said: ‘That money is being used to analyse the data from the patients who have been recruited to The 100,000 Genomes Project – which will be the largest cohort of patients in osteosarcoma in the world being analysed in this way. 

‘We are bringing in a multi-disciplined team to analyse the data in a very multi-faceted manner, to correlate all the genomic findings with responses to therapy and the clinical outcome for a rare disease that is very powerful.’ 

She added: ‘For a previous study we did it took us nearly 10 years to collect the samples for 140 patients.

‘Whereas, in two years we have collected more than that as part of The 100,000 Genomes Project.

‘The concentration of the number of patients we have had in a short period is huge because of this.’ 

Prof Flanagan added the end goal of UCL’s osteosarcoma research is to discover a cure. 

But shorter term objectives include identifying which patients can receive different kinds of treatments, because only 50 per cent of patients respond to chemotherapy and improving prosthesis for people with osteosarcoma.

 

What are some of the things we know about osteosarcoma so far?

- Compared to the 65,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer every year, just 120 patients are diagnosed with osteosarcoma

- The survival rate for the disease has not changed in about 40 years, with 50 per cent of patients surviving five years 

- It is mostly young people between the ages of four and their mid-20s who have the disease, but older people can get it as a result of previous radiotherapy