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Thank you from a Tenovus Scholar

Prof Hillier Event

Over the last two years we have been trying to track down and reconnect with our alumni. Much of this work was done by a brilliant volunteer Charlotte Simpson. We were delighted when several people got in touch to tell us what they’ve been doing since we funded their research earlier in their careers. One of them was Prof Steve Hillier OBE. We funded Prof Hillier’s PhD in the early 1970s and he is now Emeritus Professor of Reproductive Endocrinology at The University of Edinburgh.

During British Science Week on 13th March we invited supporters to the original Tenovus Institute for Cancer Research in Cardiff. Our audience, including current and past students and grant holders, community fundraisers, corporate partners, Sing with Us choristers, representatives from GoodGym and Orchard Media and legacy pledgers, were treated to an evening of talks and lab tours and Prof Hillier kindly agreed to travel from Edinburgh to give a keynote talk. It was fantastic to hear his memories of the Institute and more about his successful career focussing on fertility and ovarian cancer.

The title of Prof Hillier’s talk was ‘Thank you from a Tenovus Scholar’ and as he gave us a whistle-stop tour of his 40-year long research career it was obvious how much our funding meant and the impact it has made. Following his PhD Prof Hillier worked at the National Institutes of Health, USA, Leiden University, NL and Hammersmith Hospital, London where he collaborated with Professor (now Lord) Robert Winston in establishing one of the first successful in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) programmes in the United Kingdom. By 1985 they had established the first 100 IVF pregnancies. Prof Hillier’s research focus has greatly increased our understanding of ovarian function and the impact on fertility regulation and major disease processes in women, including ovarian cancer. His contributions have helped to explain why women normally produce only one egg in each menstrual cycle, thereby leading to the design of safer and more effective methods for treating infertility. Prof Hillier concluded his talk by saying that our funding had a huge impact on his life professionally and personally.

As well as his successful research career he met and married his wife Haideh during this PhD which was a lovely story to hear. Prof Hillier shared an image of an early Tenovus logo The Helping Hand (a hand holding the Roman numeral X, surrounded by the words “and the greatest of these is charity”). This symbolises the wide ranging community work and support Tenovus Cancer Care has provided since it was established since 1943.

It was a pleasure to meet Prof Hillier and introduce him to our supporters; following the event last week he said “It was a privilege to represent the Tenovus Scholars of old, and to meet some of the newer ones. I stand ready to help Tenovus Cancer Care in any way I can.”