Written by Alan Craft and Tim Eden
Dr. Morris Jones, who was President of SIOP in 1980/81, recently died at the age of 87. She was one of the first doctors in the UK to specialise in the care of children with cancer and over her 40 year career from 1953 to 1993, she saw survival rates improve from cancer being mainly a fatal disease to one where there was a real chance of cure with more than half of children surviving. She was an only child, born in Oswestry, close to the border with Wales. She trained in medicine at the Royal Free Medical School in London and found her way to Manchester to specialise in paediatrics. There she came under the influence of Basil Marsden, a paediatric pathologist, and Dr Dorothy Pearson, a radiotherapist. In 1954, Marsden had established the world’s first population based children’s malignant disease registry which became a prototype for registries all over the world. Dr. Pearson was a founding member of SIOP and its second president. In the late 50s and early 60s, the only real treatments available were surgery and radiotherapy but the emerging success of chemotherapy led to a need for paediatricians to sub-specialise in paediatric oncology. Pat took up this challenge and built up one of the largest units in the country. She was single handed and absolutely dedicated to the care of children. She rarely took a day off. Before people were talking about evidence based medicine she was adamant that treatment should be given in trials where we could learn what was best for the future. She was especially interested in Wilms’ tumour. In 1977, she helped found the UK Children’s Cancer Study Group (UKCCSG), which eventually ensured that all children in the UK with cancer had access to the most up-to-date treatment. The early involvement of Manchester in the pre-chemotherapy era using radiotherapy, and the registry, led her to take a real interest in the late effects of treatment and she was heavily involved with Anna Meadows in Philadelphia in setting up the Late Effects Study Group. Pat was an inspirational teacher and leader and many of the young aspiring paediatric oncologists in the 70s turned to her for career advice and then once appointed to a post used her as a source of support and advice on patient management. She was most people’s “phone a friend”. She was short in stature but big in personality. When she retired from clinical work in 1993, she decided to move to London. “As a single lady why would I want to move into a country cottage?”. Soon after her move to central London, she met and married her Italian hairdresser, Alfonso Cassarini, and enjoyed 20 blissful years travelling widely and exploring the capital’s culture.