Institute of Genetics and Cancer

Carragher Lab honours Emily’s memory

The family of a woman who died from a brain tumour aged just 31 have unveiled a plaque on the wall of the Neil Carragher Research Group lab, where the work they’ve helped to fund takes place: February 2024

The Morris Family with Professor Neil Carragher
The Morris Family with Professor Neil Carragher

The Emily Morris Fund, set up in Emily’s memory, was established in 2017 in collaboration with The Brain Tumour Charity and has now raised a million pounds for research into the most difficult to treat type of brain tumour.

Emily Morris Fund Plaque

Emily’s father Jack Morris went on to become Chair of Trustees at the organisation,

Now her family has seen for themselves how their fundraising is helping to screen thousands of drugs to see if any have the potential to treat glioblastoma.

The project is co-funded by Cancer Research UK and is believed to be the largest unbiased screening of drugs in human glioblastoma cell models in the world.

Emily, from northwest London, first became unwell with headaches and what doctors thought was a flu virus in 2015 when she was 29.

Then her heart rate rocketed for no apparent reason and a cardiac specialist prescribed her medication but couldn’t find the underlying cause.

When she began to experience a strange smell and taste up to 20 times a day, she was referred to an ear, nose and throat specialist who sent Emily for an MRI scan.

Expecting nothing out of the ordinary, Emily went to find out the results on her own and was shocked when a consultant told her she had a brain tumour and needed urgent surgery.

That craniotomy removed much of the tumour and confirmed it was a glioblastoma multiforme, one of the most aggressive and difficult to treat brain cancers.

The next week was a “whirlwind” as Emily began treatment. It included 30 sessions of radiotherapy and nine rounds of chemotherapy, but the tumour returned.

Emily’s father Jack said: “Emily had six months after her initial treatment where she did pretty well. Following that it was then a process of, as I used to say, trying hold back a tsunami." 

In November/December 2016 Emily's oncologist said she was fighting an uphill battle, and her family agreed that she should come home. 

Jack continued: “I had a moment that I’ll treasure for the rest of my life with Emily before she died. I was just sitting with her and at this time she couldn’t speak and I did a little wave and said ‘I love you’ and she just said to me ‘love you'. I don’t know how she found the words but they were the last words she ever said to me.” 

Emily died on 3 January 2017 and as she had been such a colourful character who loved jewellery, her mum Susan started making bracelets to sell in her memory. 

Friends and family far and wide organised marathons, bike rides and numerous other challenge events to raise money in Emily's memory. Her family used these proceeds to set up The Emily Morris Fund and sought advice from The Brain Tumour Charity.  

The Charity told them about Professor Neil Carragher’s research at the University of Edinburgh and they were “absolutely blown away” by his efforts to find treatments for glioblastoma and decided to support it.  

Jack said: “Funding research through The Brain Tumour Charity, wherever it needs to be in the world, by the best practitioners, by the best institutions, is the lifeblood of finding a cure for this awful disease.” 

Emily’s brother, Bobby, added: “We will always keep Emily’s memory alive because we talk about her a lot. Whenever we’re at a family dinner or a birthday, we’ll always do a little toast to her and just make sure that she’s remembered.... Our family will always be a family of five people, we’re not a family of four.”

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