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A beautiful little girl with cancer takes a break from treatment. She is standing near a large bay of windows in the hospital's corridor. The girl is wearing a headscarf and is holding a stuffed rabbit toy. She is looking out the window with a peaceful expression.

Birmingham partnership creates next generation of childhood cancer researchers

A groundbreaking local partnership has been announced in the UK’s fight against childhood cancer. Two BHP founder-members – Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity and the University of Birmingham – have joined forces with The Azaylia Foundation to create the next generation of leaders in childhood cancer, collectively committing over £560,000 to co-fund two clinical PhDs in paediatric oncology.

Five new cases of childhood cancer are diagnosed every day, yet it receives less than 3% of all cancer research funding. This much-needed investment into the Azaylia Childhood Cancer PhD Fund will provide expert clinicians with the opportunity to undertake groundbreaking, world-class research into the early diagnosis of childhood cancer and more importantly find new and kinder treatments to improve survival rates.

Professor Pamela Kearns, Professor of Clinical Paediatric Oncology at University of Birmingham and Honorary Consultant Paediatric Oncologist at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, said: “We’re delighted to have funded the first two Azaylia childhood cancer clinical PhD scholars in paediatric oncology, thanks to an outstanding gift of over £280,000 from The Azaylia Foundation, which has been match-funded by University of Birmingham and Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity. Parents always want to know, ‘why did my child get cancer?’ and ‘can you cure my child?’ we are now in a strong position to extensively research the answers to these questions.”

Mark Brider, CEO of Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “Research into childhood cancer is essential to improve survival rates and discover safer treatments. It is an honour to partner with both our friends at University of Birmingham and The Azaylia Foundation to co-fund these much-needed paediatric oncology clinical PhD roles. Our collaboration will help create the next generation of leaders in childhood cancer and positively change the experiences and outcomes for our brave patients and families.”

Dr Anindita Roy, a trustee for The Azaylia Foundation and Associate Professor of Paediatric Haematology at the University of Oxford, added: “Paediatric oncology clinician scientists are rare. The Azaylia Childhood Cancer PhD Fund is a hugely positive step in facilitating change as now those who have seen first-hand the devastating realities faced by young cancer patients will be able to take their insights and ideas into the laboratory and then back into clinical practice.”

The launch of the Azaylia Childhood Cancer PhD Fund celebrates the one-year anniversary of The Azaylia Foundation, a charitable organisation created by ex-footballer Ashley Cain and Safiyya Vorajee following the tragic passing of their daughter, Azaylia Diamond Cain, of leukaemia in April 2021. The Azaylia Foundation’s immediate ambition is to help fund up to 10 clinical PhDs across the UK within two years.

Safiyya Vorajee, left, and Ashley Cain, right, with members of the BWC paediatric oncology team