Around 17,600 people a year are diagnosed with cancer in the North East of England.* That same amount of people could fill Newcastle’s Utilita Arena to capacity one and a half times over. So, research into the best ways to prevent, diagnose and treat the disease has never been more vital. But it requires funding.

Our pioneering work across the UK, including right here in the North East, benefits from the generosity of supporters leaving a gift to Cancer Research UK in their Will. In fact, legacy gifts fund a third of our research.

Dr Debbie Hicks is a Research Fellow at Newcastle University: 

“My area of research is childhood brain tumours, specifically medulloblastoma. The treatments we give are so aggressive, so we’ve got this double-edged sword problem. Of course, we have to treat these tumours because we need these patients to survive, but those that do survive can manifest late side effects.”

“I look at the biology of a tumour and see which biological features I can find, to find the specific fault so we can try and match that up with the right therapies, or develop therapies, to target the tumour.

“Understanding the specific nature of the tumour allows researchers to select, or even develop, the precise tools that will improve survival and reduce the severity of the late onset side effects.”

Dr Hicks’ fascination with biology led her to this area of research:

“The genetic complexity of cancer is so enormous – it has the power to both enthral and boggle the mind. I thought it was the place where if you understood the genetics, you could do the most good with that knowledge. It’s really important to my values that my job helps people, that I can help people.”

In 2020/21, Cancer Research UK spent nearly £5m on world-leading research in the North East.

The North East is home to the Cancer Research UK Newcastle Centre, delivering world-leading research that accelerates the transition of lab-based discovery to the clinic for the benefit of people affected by cancer.

Gifts in Wills are vital because they help enable long-term research projects that could ultimately lead to new treatments for cancer. They allow us to keep on making progress and continue to help people live longer, healthier lives for generations to come. 

Funding from gifts in Wills means a lot to researchers like Dr Hicks:

“I was part of a team that worked on two successive Cancer Research UK programme grants. The work we did in those grants enabled us now to be in an era of medulloblastoma where every child across Europe has access to a clinical trial looking at the specific biological markers of the disease. The work we did was to understand the markers of medulloblastoma so that we could develop ways to understand who are the most at risk of side effects from certain treatments.”

“By being able to identify the group of patients who are at the highest risk of side effects, for the first time ever we’re giving them less treatment than we ever have and while this has reduced the late side effects we are also monitoring the effects on survival.”

Dr Hicks adds: “My work on those grants enabled me to start my own area of research and my own group, which thinks more about quality of survival, and if there are particular features of the tumour that would predict poor survival.”

“I just couldn’t do anything without the support of charities like Cancer Research UK, so it’s essentially a huge gift enabling me to action my passion, my life’s work that I would not be able to do without it.”

2022 marks 20 years since Cancer Research UK was formed. In that time, we’ve made huge strides together. We’ve come so far. And we will go much further. 

Dr Hicks is hopeful for future cancer treatment:

“I hope that we’ll move away from a ‘one-size-fits-all' cancer treatment to kinder, personalised treatments that will increase both probability and quality of survival.”

“I pledge to work tirelessly to improve outcomes for patients with medulloblastoma and other childhood cancers.”

1 in 2 of us will get cancer in our lifetime**. Your support can fund the research that will beat it.

4,322*** supporters in the North East have pledged to leave a gift in their Will to Cancer Research UK. Join with them to help us fund pioneering researchers like Dr Hicks and make cancer as we know it a thing of the past.

Together we will beat cancer.

To get your free Gifts in Wills guide, visit

* Based on the annual number of new cases of all cancers combined excluding non-melanoma skin cancer (ICD10 C00-C97 excluding C44) diagnosed in the North East Region of England in 2019.  

Source: NCRAS (part of NHS Digital) Cancer registration statistics, England, 2019. 

**Ahmad A.S. et al., British Journal of Cancer, 2015

***This figure relates to all gifts in Wills from this area up to 2019/20