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Wellington resident gifts $15 million for bowel cancer research

7 March 2013
A new future possible for bowel cancer research

A $15 million bequest from a modest resident of Wellington, NSW will provide a huge boon for the University's research into the state’s second most common cancer.

Elwin à Beckett in front of Wilton House, Salisbury UK in 1956

Elwin à Beckett in front of Wilton House, Salisbury UK in 1956

When she died in May this year, Elwin à Beckett left the bulk of her estate to the University to advance research into bowel cancer, in honour of her much-loved brother Martin, who died from the disease, in 1986.

Increased testing means the incidence of, and mortality from, bowel cancer has fallen since Martin’s death. However, it still accounts for 13 per cent of all cancer in NSW and is becoming increasingly linked to other chronic diseases. The William Arthur Martin à Beckett Cancer Research Trust will allow researchers to better understand bowel cancer and interrelated diseases.

“Bowel cancer doesn’t receive as much attention as other cancers but much more needs to be done to better understand it and the links between colon and bowel cancer, diet, and the complex community of bacteria living within the gut,” says Professor Steve Simpson, Director of the University’s Charles Perkins Centre where the trust will be based.

“These interactions are mediated by the immune system and inflammatory responses triggered in the gut, and are further linked to obesity, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease.”

Elwin, her father, Arthur, and her brother, William.

Elwin, her father, Arthur, and her brother, William.

The University is considering the most impactful way to use the fund. Possibilities include purchasing essential equipment, funding postgraduate scholarships and the recruitment of a new Chair: the Elwin à Beckett Chair for the Prevention, Detection and Treatment of Bowel Cancer.

Elwin à Beckett – who never married – moved with her family to “Mt Bodangora”, near Wellington in the 1940s, and then to Maxwell St, Wellington in the 1950s. She was a resident of the Bellhaven Aged Care Facility from 1999.

Elwin was much loved by all of the à Beckett family who have expressed their enormous pride in her decision to make such a generous bequest in support of bowel cancer research at The University of Sydney.

The gift comes via the Trust Company, which has managed Elwin’s affairs prior to her death and is now trustee and sole executor of her estate.