FOR cancer scientist Dr Chiara Pirillo her research is both a work and personal passion.

The Glasgow-based expert carried out her PhD studies into treatments for leukaemia - an illness her father lives with.

Now she is set to take part in Scotland’s biggest Race for Life event in honour of her dad and her aunt, who died of breast cancer.

Chiara knows it will be an emotional moment when she joins thousands at the start line of Cancer Research UK Race for Life at Glasgow Green on May 22. 

Chiara, 33, who lives in Anniesland, was halfway through her degree in molecular biology at the University of Pisa when her dad Giuseppe was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia in 2008, a cancer affecting the blood and bone marrow. 

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Doctors explained that this type of cancer tends to develop slowly and advised waiting several months before starting treatment.

Chiara said: “Fortunately, the leukaemia he had was chronic and not acute.

"However, the waiting period to see how the cancer developed before treatment could begin was hard. 

"It was a painful wait. 

"I couldn’t help wondering ‘what if it’s too late?”

Eventually, when treatment started Dr Pirillo’s dad Giuseppe who is a geologist and lives in Calabria, Italy, responded well to chemotherapy.

He was later treated with Rituximab and then Ibrutinib, drugs which have helped keep the cancer under control

Chiara said: “Dad still has to be super careful. He’s immunosuppressed and because of Covid my parents haven’t been able to visit me in Scotland, but he’s living a normal life due to the drug Ibrutinib.”

Now aged 61, Chiara’s father is living well thanks to the cancer drug, a type of cancer growth blocker. 

It works by blocking chemical messengers in the body and stopping cells from growing and dividing. 

Chiara PhD, which she studied for in London, was focused on research into leukaemia. 

Chiara said: “The PhD was close to what was important to me. 

"Studying leukaemia helped me to understand.”

But in 2016, Dr Pirillo’s aunt Annamaria Pirillo was diagnosed with of triple negative breast cancer aged 56 and sadly died.

Chiara said: “They tried everything including surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and my aunt even travelled to specialists in Milan. 

"We were devastated that little could be done and my aunt very sadly passed away.”

After finishing her PhD, Chiara decided to continue her work into cancer research to support the fight to find new treatments to help people like her father and her aunt.

Her dad and her aunt will never be far from her thoughts as she completes the 5k course. 

Every year around 33,200 people are diagnosed with cancer in Scotland and one in two people in the UK born after 1960 will get cancer in their lifetime.

Chiara, who works at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute in Glasgow, knows exactly how vital it is to raise funds for life-saving research. 

Her work tries to understand how the immune system, which is normally able to respond to influenza and other pathogens, can be improved to be able to respond to cancer.

Chiara said: “I wanted to be part of something that could help people. 

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"I’d like to thank everyone across Scotland who, through taking part in Race for Life, help raise money for research into all 200 types of cancer. 

"The funds raised will make a difference to people’s lives today and for future generations.” 

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, is a series of 3k, 5k, 10k, Pretty Muddy and Pretty Muddy Kids events that raise millions of pounds every year to fund crucial research. 

Fiona MacLeod, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson in Scotland, said: “We are grateful to Dr Pirillo for her support. 

"Sadly, cancer affects all of us in some way. 

"Whether people are living with cancer, taking part in honour of or in memory of a loved one with cancer or signing up to protect their own children’s future, everyone has a reason to Race for Life. 

"So, we’re asking people across Scotland: 'Who will you Race for?'"

Cancer Research UK’s Race for Life, in partnership with Tesco, raises funds for world-class research to help beat 200 types of cancer – including bowel cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, testicular cancer, brain cancer, children’s cancers and leukaemia.    

Oonagh Turnbull, head of health campaigns at Tesco, said: “This will be our 21st year in partnership with Cancer Research UK and Race for Life and we hope this year can be the biggest yet.”  

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