Honour for inspirational Montrose teenager

An inspirational Montrose teenager has been chosen for a singular honour after being treated for a rare cancer.
​Luke McAuliffe with Dr Shin-ichiro Hiraga, from the research team at the Donaldson laboratory at Aberdeen University.​Luke McAuliffe with Dr Shin-ichiro Hiraga, from the research team at the Donaldson laboratory at Aberdeen University.
​Luke McAuliffe with Dr Shin-ichiro Hiraga, from the research team at the Donaldson laboratory at Aberdeen University.

Luke McAuliffe, 13, was chosen to open a new superstore dedicated to saving lives, and was guest of honour at the ceremony at Cancer Research UK’s biggest store in Scotland, which is situated at Boulevard Retail Park in Aberdeen.

The 13-year-old, who has had surgery to remove tumours from his pancreas and liver, joined scientist Dr Shin-ichiro Hiraga to cut the ribbon. The superstore, which at 8,470 sq ft is more than five times the size of a normal Cancer Research UK shop, is the fifth of its kind in Scotland following the success of the charity’s other superstores in Edinburgh, Paisley, Irvine and Dundee.

The charity has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years. Its research has led to more than 50 cancer drugs used across the UK - and around the world - from chemotherapies to new-generation precision treatments. With around 33,200 people diagnosed with cancer every year in Scotland,* the charity is determined to continue its mission of funding life-saving research.

Luke, a pupil at Mearns Academy and a keen rugby player, said: “When my mum told me that Cancer Research UK was asking me to open their new superstore I was shocked.

“This isn’t something you do every day so I was super excited and nervous. I’ve been helped through treatment by my family and my amazing friends at Montrose Rugby Club. I love rugby and the sport kept me going even during the difficult days in hospital. It feels great to be playing rugby again and to be here today to give something back.”

Luke was accompanied at the launch by his mum Lisa McAuliffe, 40, and his sister Arwen, 15. It was a special day out after a tough few years.

Luke was just nine when he was first diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumour (NET) after suffering severe stomach pain. A scan showed a 3cm tumour at the top of his pancreas. Just before Christmas 2019, travelled to London to have surgery at King’s College Hospital for the tumour to be removed. The surgery, known as a Whipple procedure, included removing the head of the pancreas, the first part of the gallbladder and the bile duct.

The treatment was successful and Luke recovered well. But two years later, scans showed tumours in his liver and in January last year he returned to the same hospital for a second operation.

After recovering, Luke’s story even inspired a fundraiser with Scottish rugby fans, players and coaches joining him to dye their hair bright pink and more than £3000 was raised for the Little Princess Trust.

He also attracted support from Scotland Rugby Sevens star Ross McCann who last spring dyed his hair pink in solidarity and in a pitch -ide interview to camera at a tournament in Canada described Luke as “an amazing kid who is someone who inspires me.”

Luke now receives monthly injections and doctors have told the family the treatment is working.

Luke’s mum, Lisa, said: “I’m so proud of our very own Luke and how he’s coped with everything.

“No child should ever have to go through cancer. Since our own cancer journey began we’ve met many who have either received treatment or know someone close to them who has been affected by the disease. Without fantastic charities like Cancer Research UK, many of the treatments available today wouldn’t be possible.”

Luke was joined at the superstore launch by Dr Shin-ichiro Hiraga who is part of a team of eight scientists from the Donaldson laboratory at the University of Aberdeen. They have been awarded a grant of up to £1.5m from Cancer Research UK to discover more on how cells become cancerous and how treatments could be better targeted to each patient’s tumours.

Dr Hiraga said: “Understanding how tumours develop is a vital part of the fight against cancer.

“Our research focuses on a specific molecule that plays an important role in the development of all types of cancer, particularly breast, bowel, lung and endocrine cancers. It controls how cell DNA is copied and repaired. This process allows cells to grow but if they go wrong, it can cause cells to grow out of control, which can lead to cancer. If we can work out how this process goes wrong and stop it from happening, then it has great potential to improve cancer treatments. We are moving closer to this goal.

“All our research team are grateful to the people of Aberdeenshire who give so generously to Cancer Research UK.”

The Aberdeen superstore is selling everything from furniture to electrical items, clothing and soft furnishings, gifts and women’s, men’s and children’s wear- with profits going to fund research.

Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, Michelle Mitchell, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Luke and his family. We hope his story of courage encourages people to support our new superstore in Aberdeen so that we can continue to fund the very best scientists in Scotland and across the UK.”

The Aberdeen superstore will be open Monday to Saturday, 9am until 6pm, and Sundays 10am to 6pm.

Aberdeen superstore manager Sam Broderick said more volunteers are needed at the store and donations of furniture, good-quality clothes, shoes, bags, books and homeware are welcome. Every bag of donated items could raise up to £25 - or £31 with Gift Aid if the donor is a UK taxpayer. Further information can be found at www.cruk.org/shops.