FROM shaking a collection tin before work to producing the largest study of women with breast cancer in the UK, one Oxfordshire couple have reflected on 25 years of groundbreaking charity work.

Dr Anthony Leathem and his wife Patricia founded Abingdon-based charity Against Breast Cancer in 1993.

At the time, he was a pathologist at the Middlesex Hospital, later University College London, while Mrs Leathem worked as a breast cancer theatre nurse at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital.

Dr Leathem said: “I’d become increasingly frustrated that over 10 years I saw deaths from breast cancer increasing and I wanted to know what was actually causing patients to die.”

By looking at old tissue samples, the 74-year-old discovered there was a chemical difference between aggressive and non-aggressive breast cancer cells.

He said: “I realised I needed an assistant but there wasn’t the funding so I had to go out and raise the money myself. I started shaking a collection tin outside the London underground before work and it went from there.”

Soon his wife was handwriting dozens of letters to private schools and organisations asking for money from their Long Wittenham home.

Mrs Leathem said: “Anthony was so passionate about his research that right from the start he inspired me to get involved.

“I can still remember getting the first cheque for £50 and realising this was going to work.”

She added: “From that initial £26,000 to pay the salary of a PhD student to the amount we raise now is incredible. I believe we’re set to raise over a million pounds this year.”

Today the charity funds pioneering research into new treatments, tools for earlier diagnosis and advice to reduce the risk of cancer returning.

In 2015, the charity completed a diet and lifestyle study involving more than 3,300 women from 56 hospitals across the UK – the largest study of its kind and a vital tool for future research.

The 72-year-old said she and her husband could not have achieved what they have without the support of the local community and looked forward to Against Breast Cancer’s next 25 years. To mark the anniversary the charity has produced limited edition wristbands, pins and pens available at