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William joins Ralph Lauren on breast cancer centre visit

Published 17/05/2016

The Duke of Cambridge has learned about ground-breaking research into the treatment and detection of breast cancer at the Royal Marsden Hospital as he toured a new centre with Ralph Lauren.

Wearing white coats, William and the fashion designer - immaculately dressed in a grey pinstripe suit - were given a guided tour of the breast cancer research facility.

It has been named after the American businessman and philanthropist who has made an undisclosed donation to the £3.9 million world-class facility at the hospital in Chelsea, west London

The two men were told about a pilot study beginning at the end of the year which could - if it proves successful - lead to a blood test being used to detect if any cancer remains in a woman's body once she has been given the all clear.

Another project is trialling the use of a new drug, which puts the tumour into "suspended animation", in combination with a standard drug which lowers oestrogen levels - a hormone known to benefit tumours - in post-menopausal women.

During the visit the Duke sympathised with one patient he met, telling her that friends of his had suffered with cancer.

And in a lighter moment he told another woman, who had received treatment at the leading cancer hospital, how he was "trying to sort out schools" for his children Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

Figures from the charity, Breast Cancer Now, show around 50,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year and about 12,000 women die of the disease each year.

Mr Lauren, who has also supported cancer care in the US, said about the new centre: "It's wonderful to see how it works, there certainly wasn't enough time for me to understand the whole thing. But I could see the dedication and the care of the people and then the patients, so I got a picture of what's going to be done and what's working."

Speaking about his support of breast cancer institutions, he said: "A good friend of mine in America had breast cancer, and she said 'Ralph you deal with so many women, it would be a wonderful thing (if you helped)'. She said 'I haven't gotten any support from anyone' and I said 'I'm going to help you'.

"She didn't make it, but I got hooked into feeling really strong about breast cancer.

"I have a daughter and a wife and it's a family situation. The mother might have it, the sister might have it, but ... the family goes through it, it involves everybody."

William has a long association with the hospital, as he became the Royal Marsden's president in 2007, following in the footsteps of his mother Diana, Princess of Wales, who held the same position from 1989 until her death in 1997.

During the visit the Duke met Kathryn England, 59, from Morden, south London, who asked about William's children George and Charlotte.

She was diagnosed in March 2015 with the early stages of breast cancer and is one of the women taking part in the new trial of the two drugs being used in combination.

William replied: "They're both doing very well at the moment - noisy but lovely - just trying to sort out schools now, it's going very well."

He also chatted to Sally Munton, 64, from London, who had a mastectomy in 2003 but the cancer returned to her breast 10 years later and spread to her bone.

Following a second bout of hormone treatment the cancer, in a number of ribs and her spine, disappeared and surgeons were able to remove the breast tumour a few weeks ago.

She said about the Royal Marsden: "I've been in many hospitals but it's not just the standard of care which is so immaculate, it's the empathy of the staff both the medical staff, administrative staff, everybody who works here - they look after the whole person."

William also commented about how he had known friends with cancer and Ms Munton said later: "He was sympathising because he obviously knows people with cancer."

In the new centre on the fourth floor of the Royal Marsden, the Duke and the fashion designer were told about the two projects which researchers hope will be major breakthroughs for women.

The centre, funded by supporters of the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity including the donation from Mr Lauren, aims to set a benchmark in global cancer research and works in partnership with the Breast Cancer Now research centre at the Institute of Cancer Research, London.

Researcher are working towards providing treatments that can be tailored to individuals to help improve their chances of survival.

Professor Stephen Johnston, who specialises in cancer medicine, talked William and Mr Lauren, who was joined by wife Ricky Lauren, through his project - the trial of the two drugs being used in combination to target tumours.

William was also shown a large, long needle used to take samples of breast tumours and remarked at its size despite being told the patient is anaesthetised before use, and later before leaving, he said: "It's still a big needle."

Speaking about the benefits of the new centre, the professor said: "More capacity, we can work faster, we can employ more people - it just ups the scale at which we can do things and we can be involved in these big international trials because we've got more space, more staff."

William formally opened the Ralph Lauren Centre for Breast Cancer Research by unveiling a plaque.

He told the guests: "Seeing the courage and spirit of the patients I met today, it would be hard not to feel positive about the work being done here, and the real difference it makes.

"A difference which I know extends beyond the four walls of this hospital, to cancer patients across the UK and internationally."

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