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Dr Mazhar Ajaz

Dear Story FMR Supporters,

I know an update is long overdue and I’m pleased to be able to write to you today, with a bit of gentle task-management from Pam of course. I needed to take a break from clinical practice in April and in fact took some much-needed time to recharge and enter back into the fray with the right energy. Now that this difficult time is behind me, I am pleased to announce that on 20 August I took up a new consultant post at St George’s Hospital, South London, joining an established melanoma team there with Professor Angus Dalgleish and Dr Alberto Fusi, and am enjoying it immensely so far. It is great to get back into the driving seat and do the job I love.

Pam’s enduring dedication to the charity whilst I have been out of action has been incredible and we all owe a great deal to her vision and hard work in getting the charity to where we are today. Fundraising is proceeding very well and the events have been huge successes. As you will have seen, Paula Keyes and I cycled 17 miles with our seven-and-eight-year-olds recently, an interesting experience shall we say, and a reasonable contributor to the coffers. The next major event is the Craft Fair, to be held at Charterhouse School in Godalming on Sunday 14th October, which is shaping up extremely well. I will be there and I look forward to seeing as many of you there as possible.

You will have seen that we have partnered with Marie Tudor and the Skcin charity to help the delivery of their MASCED programme, which is a brilliant initiative and likely lifesaver for dozens of people with early melanoma. I am extremely proud that Story FMR has been able to help fund this. It is plainly better to prevent a problem than to rescue it, and this kind of initiative is commensurate with our aim to make the maximum impact against this disease in the most efficient and effective ways possible.

I wanted to comment briefly on some new developments in melanoma that some of you may have seen in the newspapers (and I will aim to do this more often). As you may know, up to half of melanomas are driven by a particular fault in a protein called BRAF (made by the BRAF gene). This fault is actually a significant liability for these cancers because it is a relatively straightforward target for drugs. The drug we have been using mainly for it is called dabrafenib, alongside a partner drug, trametinib. These are not new drugs, but the recent press coverage relates to the finding that given after surgery (rather than waiting for the cancer to come back and spread), the drugs approximately halve the risk of the cancer returning in the first year at least. NICE was persuaded and the drugs are now available for use in this situation. Once again, it is better to try and prevent a problem than to rescue it, and that’s why the earlier use of these drugs (and immunotherapy, also likely to be approved in this situation soon) is such a strong offering for patients.

I look forward to writing to you more frequently now that I am back in full-time practice. There is much to update you on over the coming months and we continue to set our ambitions high to make sure that the funds raised are used in the smartest way we can see, with no other ambition or agenda than putting patients and their families first, and to solve this disease.

With best wishes

Mazhar Ajaz

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