The Duke of Cambridge visited a branch of the Royal Marsden Hospital, 30 years after his late mother Princess Diana laid a ceremonial foundation stone in Chelsea, London

By Simon Perry
October 21, 2020 10:13 AM
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Prince William followed in the footsteps of his late mother Princess Diana on Wednesday by laying a foundation stone at a cancer hospital.

The royal took part in the ceremony at the Royal Marsden in Sutton, Surrey, to start the building the Oak Cancer Centre, a state-of-the-art research and treatment facility. It comes 30 years after his mother Diana, who died in 1997, carried out a similar task by laying the ceremonial foundation stone commemorating the Chelsea Wing at The Royal Marsden in central London.

The hospital's Oak Cancer Centre will place over 400 researchers under the same roof as patients, helping to accelerate the development of new treatments for cancer.

In a speech, William, 38, said, "I am personally delighted to be with you today to lay the foundation stone of the Oak Centre, 30 years after my mother did the very same thing at The Royal Marsden in Chelsea, commemorating the building of the Chelsea Wing."

Royal visit Oak Cancer Centre
Prince William
| Credit: WPA-Rota/Press Association Images
Royal visit Oak Cancer Centre
Prince William
| Credit: WPA-Rota/Press Association Images

He went on to "acknowledge the unimaginable challenges that all those at the Marsden have faced this year," during the coronavirus pandemic. "The knock-on effects of coronavirus have been felt widely, but the impact on cancer treatment for patients up and down the country has been one of the most acute and challenging."

During his visit, he met a small group of patients to hear how clinical trials at The Royal Marsden have transformed their lives and to talk about their experiences of receiving treatment during the pandemic.

"Earlier this morning I was privileged to meet patients who all spoke about the exceptional care they received, and how they felt safe in very difficult and often frightening times," he added.

"As well as providing outstanding care, The Royal Marsden continues to be at the cutting edge of cancer research globally. As we heard from Alex, developments in cancer research made here have changed the face of cancer treatment across the world, giving thousands of people a future."

Diana At The Royal Marsden
Princess Diana at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea, London
| Credit: Terry Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images

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William said he was "delighted" to officially break ground on a new building which "will represent a new generation of research-led patient treatment and care. It will bring together some of the world’s best minds to develop new treatments to save and improve the lives of cancer patients throughout the U.K. and around the world."

The prince launched the private fundraising phase of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity’s appeal in November 2015. It has brought in around $80 million. He has now kicked off the launch of the public fundraising which hopes to bring in the last $10 million needed to build the project. The Oak Cancer Centre is due to open to patients in 2022.

Royal visit Oak Cancer Centre
Credit: WPA-Rota/Press Association Images

William, who serves as the President of the Royal Marsden, has made multiple trips to the hospital over the years. He worked for two days at their children’s unit back in 2005 and last year he put on blue scrubs to watch two operations being performed using state-of-the-art robotic surgical technology.

Consultant Medical Oncologist Professor James Larkin, who spoke at the ceremony alongside William, said, “My goal would be that in 15 years’ time, as a consequence of research undertaken in the Oak Cancer Centre, I can say to my patients that we have effective therapies to prevent cancer spreading in the first place. And if it were to spread, that we can realistically talk about cure of the disease for a majority of patients.”

Dame Cally Palmer DBE, Chief Executive of The Royal Marsden, added that the Sutton hospital was opened by William’s grandmother, Queen Elizabeth, 57 years ago.

“It remains an outstanding hospital but now it’s time to modernise for the 21st century and build a state-of-the-art facility to complement the existing facilities and help us meet some of the most pressing challenges in cancer research and treatment today.  We are very grateful for [William’s] continued support for our patients and the work that we do. I’d also like to thank The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity and all its supporters, without whom this wouldn’t be possible," she said.