A TEENAGE cancer survivor from Reading is starring in an urgent new TV appeal for donations to help Cancer Research UK continue its life-saving work.

With fundraising events cancelled and the charity's shops having been closed for the last three months, 18-year-old Alayna Fernandes is helping to highlight the devastating loss of funding for vital research caused by the Covid-19 outbreak.

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Alayna has research to thank for helping her overcome cancer twice, having first been diagnosed with Ewing’s Sarcoma in 2012.

That's why she’s sharing her story to help highlight the powerful advert, in which she appears with one of the charity’s leading scientists whose work has been slowed down by the pandemic.

Following months of treatment including chemotherapy and radiotherapy, she was in remission, back at school and doing well.

But in February 2018, Alayna went for a scan after experiencing some problems with her vision and a tumour was found in her brain, which doctors said was a recurrence of her cancer.

She restarted four cycles of chemotherapy treatment on a clinical trial called rEECur, which is run out of the Birmingham CRUK trials unit.

She then had radiotherapy which finished mid-August, just in time to collect her GCSE results, and then had further high-dose chemo in autumn that year.

Now Alayna, a pupil at Little Heath School, is busy studying for her A-levels and should have been sitting the first of her three exams this summer, until the pandemic hit.

Instead she has been trying hard to keep focussed on her work at home, while shielding with her family, during which time she has continued with her three-monthly scans, but now wearing a mask and homemade PPE.

She plans to go to university and eventually become a human nutritionist, having been inspired when she was 10 years old and being treated in hospital, where she regularly saw a dietician who helped her better understand the relationship between nutrients and the human body.

The Cancer Research UK appeal film features a direct plea for support from Professor Richard Gilbertson, along with clips of Alayna and other cancer patients and survivors in lockdown - many of whom are self-isolating or shielding to protect their health.

During the advert Alayna can be seen out walking and explaining the importance of research to make treatments kinder for patients and to ultimately save lives.

Alayna said: “Cancer can be an isolating experience – now it’s even harder and quite scary during a pandemic. I cannot imagine how patients who are actually in treatment are feeling now.

“I’ve seen how amazing people have been raising money in different ways throughout the past few months. Cancer Research UK needs it to continue.

“I’m proud to be part of this campaign because it is an amazing cause. I hope that people across Reading will be inspired by the charity’s determination to carry on beating cancer and give what they can.”

Cancer Research UK’s work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has been at the heart of the progress that has seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.

Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, the charity currently funds around 50 per cent of all cancer research in the UK.

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However, as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic, the charity is now preparing for a 30 per cent fall in income in the 2020/21 financial year – putting this life-saving research at risk.

Jenny Makin, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the South East, said: “We’re grateful to Alayna for playing a starring role in our appeal and helping to underline the reality of the current situation.

“We’ve always said ‘together we will beat cancer’. But the truth is, COVID-19 has slowed us down. Right now, clinical trials are being postponed and we’re having to delay vital research.

“But we will never stop. Around 51,400 people are diagnosed with cancer every year in the South East*, which is why we are absolutely determined to continue to create better cancer treatments for tomorrow. However, we can’t do it alone.

“Every step our scientists take towards beating cancer relies on our supporters. Whether they donate, sign up to Race for Life at Home or shop at our stores as they re-open - with the help of people in Reading we believe that together we will still beat cancer.”

Cancer Research UK was able to spend over £34 million in the South East last year on some of the UK’s leading scientific and clinical research.

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