Professor Martin Gore
Oncologist who treated Jade Goody and was a world expert on melanoma, renal and ovarian cancer
PROFESSOR MARTIN GORE, who has died suddenly after a routine yellow fever jab aged 67, was Medical Director of the Royal Marsden Hospital and Professor of Cancer Medicine at the Institute of Cancer Research.
An oncologist at the Royal Marsden for more than 35 years, he was known internationally for his work on melanoma, and ovarian and renal cancers. His research interests involved the development of cutting-edge therapeutics using the latest scientific advances in understanding the molecular basis of cancer.
These included immunotherapy (in which the body’s own immune response is harnessed to target and destroy cancer cells); gene therapy (in which genetic material is inserted into cancer cells by a vector, typically a virus, in order to replace tumour-suppressing genes, make the cancer cells more susceptible to chemotherapy, or make them self-destruct); and targeted agents (drugs which block the growth of cancer cells by interfering with specific targeted molecules needed for carcinogenesis and tumour growth).
When in 2015 Gore was presented with the Royal Marsden’s Lifetime Achievement Award by the Duke of Cambridge, the duke praised his “infectious enthusiasm and passion for his work, and his obvious compassion and kindness for his patients, their family and friends”.
His patients included the former Big Brother star, Jade Goody, who was diagnosed with advanced cervical cancer aged 26 in 2008. After the cancer spread to other organs, Gore put her on a two-month course of topotecan, a new drug developed in the US and being tested in the UK, which was claimed to have a one-in-four success rate in shrinking tumours.
After her death in 2009, he joined other cancer specialists in calling for the cervical cancer screening age in England to be lowered from 25 to 20.
Martin Eric Gore was born on February 18 1951 and educated at Bradfield College, Berkshire, before going on to medical training at St Bartholomew’s Medical College, qualifying in 1974 and subsequently taking a PHD for work on breast cancer.
He first worked at the Royal Marsden in 1978 as a senior house officer under Eve Wiltshaw. After three years in the early 1980s as a clinical scientist at the Ludwig Institute of Cancer Research, he returned to the hospital in 1984 as a lecturer in medicine before becoming a consultant specialising in ovarian cancer, renal cell carcinoma and melanoma in 1988.
The same year he was appointed senior lecturer (and from 2002 professor) at the Institute of Cancer Research.
From 2000 Gore was divisional medical director of rare cancers at the Royal Marsden, and from 1996 he chaired the committee for clinical research at the hospital and the Institute of Cancer Research. In 2006 he was appointed medical director of the Royal Marsden following the retirement of Professor Janet Husband. He stepped down from the role in 2016.
Gore was a former pupil of Dr Maurice Pappworth, who caused a sensation in 1967 (and a furious reaction in the medical establishment) with his book Human Guinea Pigs, which shed light on unethical experiments that were being conducted on patients, including children and inmates of mental institutions, without their full knowledge.
Gore wrote the introduction to The Whistle-blower, the book about her father by Pappworth’s daughter, Dr Joanna Seldon, and was closely involved in the field of medical ethics as chairman, from 2006 to 2012, of the Department of Health’s Gene Therapy Advisory Committee, and as senior investigator, from 2008 to 2011, of the National Institute for Health Research.
In 2013 he led an inquiry into the treatment of Alice Mason, a two-year-old who had undergone successful treatment for a brain tumour but died two months later after developing fluid on the brain. Gore found more than a dozen failings by medical staff both at the Royal Marsden and at Kingston Hospital in Surrey.
As well as the Royal Marsden’s Lifetime Achievement award, in 2014 Gore – who listed his hobbies in Who’s Who as “agonising over Fulham FC” – became the first non-american doctor to deliver the Eugene P Schonfeld Memorial Lecture. In 2016 he was appointed CBE for services to oncology.
On January 10, shortly after having an injection against yellow fever (recommended to anyone visiting Sub-saharan Africa, South and Central America and the Caribbean), Gore suffered total organ failure and died.
In 1979 he married Pauline Wren, who survives him with their three sons and one daughter.
Professor Martin Gore, born February 18 1951, died January 10 2019
Martin Gore: known for his infectious enthusiasm and kindness to patients