Dear colleagues and friends,
You may already have heard the news of Gordon McVie’s death, nearly two weeks ago.
Like me I’m sure you will be saddened by the passing of one of the true greats of British cancer treatment and research, for more than four decades.
As all those of us lucky enough to have met him will know, he was a larger-than-life figure and an enormous influence for good, in the UK and in Europe. He had a particular connection with and affection for Wales and will be greatly missed by many, here and internationally.
The appreciation below - written by Malcolm Mason, who knew him well, over many years - expresses things far better than I could do.
I’m sure that you will all want to join me in sending our sincere condolences to his widow, Claudia, and all his family.
Prof. John Chester
Director, Wales Cancer Research Centre
Co-Lead, Cardiff Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre
Clinical Professor of Medical Oncology, Cardiff University
Honorary Consultant in Medical Oncology, Velindre Cancer Centre, Cardiff
With immense sadness, the death of Professor Gordon McVie on January 20th has been reported. Gordon was a larger than life character, a giant in many senses of the word. His association with Velindre goes back to the mid-1990’s, at which time he was Director-General of the Cancer Research Campaign (CRC). Few people today will remember that Gordon gave Velindre, and Wales, its first big ‘break’ of that decade, when he agreed to fund the Wales Cancer Trials Network, in partnership with the Welsh Government. It was not fully appreciated, even then, that Gordon had stuck his neck out to do this, in the face of much internal opposition. It was gratifying to know that he felt that the results had justified the risk, but this was the first major grant that Wales had received from the CRC. It is easy to take the current research infrastructure for granted, but it owes a huge amount to Gordon, and indeed it was from his impetus that cancer research in Cardiff enjoyed something of a renaissance in the 1990s.
Gordon was a man of cast iron integrity and firm moral principles. It was his inspirational conviction that resulted in the merger of the two giant UK cancer charities - the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and his own Cancer Research Campaign, to form Cancer Research UK. It is no exaggeration to say that millions of patients worldwide have benefited from his vision.
After he stepped down from CRUK, he renewed his association with Cardiff and Velindre as a Visiting Professor and Hon Consultant. His presence in the outpatient clinics at Velindre was always lively and stimulating, even if at times it could be daunting to have the former Director of the CRC (to say nothing of being former President of the European Association for Cancer Research and Treatment) observing, but it was always fun. Gordon’s links with Wales were further strengthened when his wife, Claudia, became the Chief Executive of Tenovus (now Tenovus Cancer Care). During her tenure, Gordon was a regular presence at charity events of all kinds, and of course was a peerless master of ceremonies when called upon to do this. He believed strongly in the mission of Tenovus, and remained a firm supporter after Claudia retired, right up to his death. A couple of years ago Gordon and Claudia moved to a beautiful house in the West country, hoping for many years of a well-earned retirement there, but sadly it was not to be.
With another legendary figure from the world of cancer research, Professor Umberto Veronesi, with whom he also developed the European Institute of Oncology in Milan, he co-founded eCancer, the online platform for education, training, and research to which many of today’s consultants and trainees subscribe. He knew everybody; his mind was razor-sharp to the end, his grasp of current issues in oncology unparalleled, and his connection to the best minds in the world undiminished. Wales’ cancer community has lost a great supporter, and many of us at Velindre have lost a great friend. We shall not see his like again.