Inaugural Downward Memorial Sixth Form Lecture

Major General Sir Peter Downward was a student at College in the 1940s and went on to have a distinguished career in military service. On his passing, he generously bequeathed a sum of money to the school. His family have made an additional donation to fund an annual lecture which will allow us to hear from leading speakers, primarily from the sciences and international relations, two of Sir Peter’s primary interests. A marble bust, a plaque in chapel and a bench have also been erected in his memory.

As a former Cambridge and MIT student, and scientist for the Imperial Cancer Research Fund in London, Professor Downward (Sir Peter’s son) was eminently qualified to deliver a talk on cancer biochemistry, entitled ‘Will we ever cure cancer? How science is finally winning the war on mankind’s most feared disease’.

The answer was not straight forward. When a therapy is created, the trials and testing that must be undertaken to ensure the public’s safety are substantial and extensive; this makes the process of medical innovation slow but secure. In addition, the human body, made up of three trillion cells, has many different ways to malfunction: faulty genes and risk factors such as smoking can provoke these malfunctions and may lead to cancer. Cancer is not one disease – there are a plethora of varieties. For some, such as colon cancer, there is a high success rate with cures, but for others there are less favourable odds.

Fighting cancer is a war on many fronts. Professor Downward dispelled the claims that we will be free from the disease imminently, yet with frequent scientific breakthroughs there is a bright future in store further down the line.

This lecture series was a fantastic gift to the Sixth Form, for which we are all very grateful. We are very much looking forward to future Downward Memorial Lectures.

– Catherine Woolley L6

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