Meet our ambassador Barbara Flynn
We are hugely grateful to our ambassador Barbara Flynn for helping us raise awareness by sharing her late husband’s story. He died of pancreatic cancer just one month after diagnosis.
Barbara, who has starred in Cracker, Miss Potter, The Beiderbecke Trilogy, Elizabeth I, and Cranford among many other popular theatre, TV and film productions became a Pancreatic Cancer UK Ambassador in 2021. She shares our determination to fund desperately needed research into an early diagnostic test which could save thousands of lives, and to support people who have been affected by the disease.
A personal connection
Barbara met her late husband Jeremy Taylor while he was working on Tomorrow’s World and a few years later, they married. They lived happily in North London for many years, Jerry producing over a dozen science documentary films for BBC’s Horizon, many of which were award winning, and after going freelance he then became a science author. There are sadly only two books: ‘Not A Chimp’ the hunt for the genes that make us human and ‘Body by Darwin’, how evolution shapes our health and transforms medicine.
In 2017, Jeremy visited his GP after experiencing various stomach issues for some time. A CT scan confirmed that he had pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Sadly, the CT scan also showed signs of metastatic cancer in Jeremy’s lungs; lymph’s nodes; his bowel and other parts of his body. He died just six weeks later.
Barbara describes Jeremy as having an incredible breadth of scientific knowledge and that he was fully aware what his diagnosis meant. Even so, the immediacy and cruelty of pancreatic cancer shocked those closest to him.
Jeremy‘s cancer was found too late for him to be eligible for the only potentially curative treatment for pancreatic cancer, surgery. Tragically, 80% of people with pancreatic cancer are diagnosed too late for treatment.
Barbara also lost her dear friend Alan Rickman to pancreatic cancer in 2016, only five months after his diagnosis. He was also diagnosed too late for treatment.
Last year, Barbara joined us and the cast of one of Alan’s most iconic films, Truly Madly Deeply, at a screening as part of our Lost Voices campaign, event organised by us and Alan’s widow, Rima Horton. The event was dedicated to all the voices we have lost too soon to pancreatic cancer.
The fight for early diagnosis
Pancreatic cancer is predicted to become the fourth biggest cancer killer by 2026 in the UK, if decades of inadequate investment in research are not reversed. We must transform the future for people with pancreatic cancer and Barbara has now joined us to fight for early diagnosis.
The Pancreatic Cancer UK Early Diagnosis Research Alliance is one of the biggest investments in early diagnosis within pancreatic cancer in the UK. The EDRA is led by a team of researchers who specialise in the type of pancreatic cancer Jeremy had, PDAC and another type of pancreatic cancer, PancNETS. The aim of the research is to find a simple test to diagnose all patients at an earlier stage.
Preliminary results show that the test is currently getting greater than 95% accuracy in early trials. This means we are edging ever closer to improving one of biggest challenges in pancreatic cancer research, diagnosis and ultimately, saving more lives. Once it has been validated for real-world use, the simple test will represent the most accurate for the disease ever created and will help doctors save lives.