Tribute to Professor John Moore, President of Cancer Research Wales

Professor John Lake Moore BSc., PhD., CIBiol., FIBiol., FRCPath., FIPSM


We are very saddened to announce the passing of Professor John Moore, longstanding President and Trustee of Cancer Research Wales. It is no exaggeration to say that John was regarded as a true pioneer of cancer research in Wales, one who touched the lives of many, and will be sadly missed by all.

Born in 1936, in Markham Village within the heart of the South Wales mining community, John, was the first from his family and village to attend Cardiff University. There, he soon cultivated an enquiring scientific mind and a quest to discover the unknown.

In the late 1950’s, John was given the opportunity to study for a doctorate that involved long spells at the prestigious and world-leading Harwell Physics Laboratory in Oxfordshire. Whilst there, John studied the biological effects of radiation on human cells, which would more than equip him for his later role as Scientific Officer at the MRC Radiopathology Unit at Hammersmith Hospital in London. At Hammersmith John helped pioneer many of the modern laboratory techniques still used today.

Upon the opening of the radiation laboratories at Velindre Cancer Centre in 1966, John returned to Wales, where he initiated a research programme with a special emphasis on radiotherapy but also including cancer immunology and medical pharmacology. Around the same time, Cancer Research Wales was born (known then as South Wales Cancer Research Charity), initially to support and fund research being undertaken in the hospital, but soon to include the whole of Wales.

As one of Wales’ leading researchers, the philosophy John lived by all through his professional career can be summed up in a single sentence ‘No one wants today’s patients to be treated by yesterday’s techniques’. His laboratory at Velindre Cancer Centre became one of the first establishments in the U.K. to secure prestigious research funding from the National Cancer Institute of America.

As most of the radiotherapy machines were used during the day for the treatment of patients, John and his research team often had to work weekends, long evenings and overnight. This hard work soon paid off with many significant advancements made in the field of radio-biology, which added to the understanding of how tumours respond when treated with radiation.

John was such an inspiration to everyone he met and also to those who worked for him. In the early 1970’s John was appointed an Honorary Lecturer at Cardiff University, with the radiation department at Velindre soon accredited for the advanced training of graduates studying for MSc and PhD degrees.

In recognition of the major contributions he made to teaching and research in Wales, John was made an Honorary Professor by the University of Wales in 1991. As a result of his supervision and mentoring, many went on to achieve great things as scientists, clinicians and leading civil servants.

Upon his retirement, John still remained very active with Cancer Research Wales, serving as Trustee, Chairman on several occasions, and more recently President.  In order to facilitate closer collaboration between clinicians and scientists working at the cutting-edge of cancer research, Professor Moore masterminded the building of state of the art laboratories on the current Velindre site.

Opened in 2001, the Cancer Research Wales Laboratories cost a total £1.2M to build, and furnish with the very latest equipment. All monies were raised by kind donations from the Welsh public, and positioned Wales at the forefront of cancer research. This facility played an important part in the Velindre NHS Trust receiving the title of ‘Centre of Excellence’, as it served to help attract the best oncologists to Cardiff and ensure Welsh patients received the best care.

John also oversaw the appointment of Prof Malcolm Mason as Cancer Research Wales, Chair of Clinical Oncology. This position resulted in Wales taking a lead in the development of game-changing cancer treatments for prostate cancer, which have since become standard practice in many parts of the world.

Ever since the creation of Cancer Research Wales, John was a fundamental part the Charity and at the heart of everything it stood for, and set out to achieve.  His passion, energy and commitment, right to the very end, was remarkable and set a wonderful example for everyone.

Last week, aged 83, John sadly succumbed to the very disease he spent all his life trying to cure. He is survived by his wife Carol, and two sons Gavin and Robin and his 5 grand-children, all of whom he adored. John will be greatly missed by all his family and the many friends and colleagues who had the pleasure of knowing and working with him over many years.