Together we will beat cancer


Peter at one of our Grand Challenge panel meetings.

Peter Rainey was a passionate and dedicated patient advocate whose impact on Cancer Research UK and the research we fund cannot be overstated. He helped put people affected by cancer at the heart of our research programme and we were shocked and saddened to hear of his death in July 2018, after living with lung cancer for 14 years.

Peter first started working with us in 2011, helping with clinical trials at his local hospital. Since then he’s been involved in countless projects, from steering us towards the best health and behavioural research to leading the patient panel on our ambitious Grand Challenge research scheme.

And with the latest teams of Grand Challenge scientists recently announced, we wanted to pay tribute to Peter’s contribution with the help of those who worked closely with him.

Peter expertly represented people affected by cancer in everything he did. He joined Cancer Research UK in the belief that patients and carers should have a voice in shaping the research agenda and offer their insights and life skills to move things forward.

He once told us that for him, Grand Challenge was no “business as usual” research, but an opportunity to contribute to something which could be ground breaking.

“Grand Challenge epitomised Peter’s approach to using his experiences of cancer for the benefit of others and is why he was so widely and well respected.” – Jim Elliot, patient advocate

He was very much part of the team at Cancer Research UK and will be truly missed. Our executive director of research and innovation, Dr Iain Foulkes, says that Peter’s dedication and passion for research was second to none.

“He was an inspiring man to be in the company of and had an uncanny ability to ask, in the most understated way, some of the most insightful and incisive questions of the world’s top cancer scientists.”

“He played an incredibly important role in the Grand Challenge initiative as the patient panel chair, helping us to select research teams that have the potential to transform the outlook for cancer patients in the years to come.”

‘Always willing to go that extra mile’

Peter had a profound impact on the people he worked with, from fellow patient advocates to the scientists that help us make funding decisions. They describe him as a leader, someone with a calm and considered approach to everything he did and as someone with “those special qualities that endeared him to everyone who met him.”

“He was cool under pressure, steadfast and always willing to go that extra mile and come up with the answer to a problem,” says Terry Kavanagh, who sat on the Grand Challenge patient panel with Peter. “His legacy will spill over to all those cancer patients who will benefit from his work in patient and public involvement.”

Margaret Grayson, who has now taken on the role of chair of the Grand Challenge patient panel, worked with Peter in many patient involvement settings over the years. “I greatly valued his friendship and guidance, especially on the Grand Challenge patient advisory panel. He was a very wise man,” she says.

Peter was not only a fantastic leader and friend, he also quietly and persistently challenged scientists to put patients first.

“Having Peter on the Grand Challenge review panel was a tremendous plus. Not only was he a great person to be around, but his presence and comments also forced the panel to keep real patient progress at the top of our thoughts,” says Professor Ed Harlow, a molecular biologist who sat on the Grand Challenge advisory panel.

“Peter was able to give the panel a real-world vision of how each of the application’s plans for patient involvement could contribute to the overall goal.”

“His questions or comments were reminders of why the Grand Challenge initiative was started—how to generate serious effort to attack major hurdles in cancer research and to ultimately help patients.”


You can find out more about our patient involvement work on our website.


In memory


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Karin Frood February 24, 2019

I knew Peter Rainey as a friend and I knew a little about the work he did on this panel for cancer research but was amazed to listen to the tribute to him at his funeral from Cancer Research. A wonderful, special man.

Janette Rawlinson February 19, 2019

Peter encouraged me at my first NCRI conference in Nov 2013 after discovering I’d raised funds and taken part in a Roy Castle facilitated session with young people (Stephen Sutton was a co-facilitator on this group) when I found the scientific presentations somewhat overwhelming. Despite a long career in management in a multinational and NHS involvement in governance, this was my first foray into cancer research involvement. I joined the SPADE group of NCRI (strategic project and design evaluation) and pulled together a summary report from the annual surveys that went onto inform the role of ‘consumer’ involvement as NCRI/CRN roles were reconfigured. This also coincided in the start of patient involvement with CRUK and opportunities that we both took up to help others. Over the years, he struck me as pragmatic, professional, considered in his views yet incredibly ambitious in improving patient outcomes through well designed and implemented research. He had a knack for summarising succinctly the key points of discussions and crystallising thoughts into results that hit home regardless of the profession or membership of any given group. He rarely commented on his health despite undergoing further treatment yet continuing to return to play his part in various forums and meetings on behalf of cancer patients and their relatives. Sadly missed.