From a cardboard factory to researching the causes of colorectal cancer.

When Danny Legge was working in a cardboard factory in the Forest of Dean, little did he think he would end up as a research scientist carrying out groundbreaking work into bowel cancer.

But, thanks to our funding, the 31-year-old has just become a PhD after three years investigating the causes of colorectal cancer.

He now continues his academic career as a research associate seeking a cure for kidney cancer in children.

It’s a long way from Whitecross Secondary School in Lydney: Danny left with a string of GCSEs in 2003 and signed up to do A’Levels in photography, graphic design, music and media studies.

“I picked subjects which would give me an easy ride – much to the horror of my parents.  But it didn’t take long to lose interest,” said Danny, whose mum and dad Brian and Sylvia still live in Lydney.

He abandoned his A’Levels and ended up in the Sonoco cardboard factory in Coleford for three years, making the tubes which go inside carpet rolls.

“It was mind-numbing work. But I liked the people and I suppose I might still be there today if the factory hadn’t closed down and I was made redundant.”

There followed six months running a packaging machine at Emma’s Country Cakes in Lydney – where one of the perks was a coffee and walnut cake to take home at weekends.

Then – his least favourite job – was three months at a call centre, handling complaints for 10 hours per day.

“It struck me that I was destined to spend the rest of my life doing unskilled, low-paid jobs unless I got more qualifications,” he said.

Danny decided to make a change.

At the age of 23, Danny went back to college to study A’Levels in biology, chemistry and physics. That was followed by a degree in Cellular and Molecular Medicine at Bristol University where he was awarded 1st Class Honours as well as the Cancer Biology Prize for the best final-year student.

His next chosen step – as a research scientist – was a tricky path.

“It was difficult to secure funding. There was a lot of competition and very few PhD  positions,” said Danny.

Then along came Ann Williams, Professor of Experimental Oncology at Bristol University, who had worked with Danny as an undergraduate and wanted him to help with research into the early biology of colorectal cancer – a PhD place that we have funded.

Danny joined Professor Williams in 2014 for three years and has just received his doctorate which investigated the links between inflammation of the gut and the drivers of colorectal tumours.

Without funding from Bowel & Cancer Research, it really would not have been possible to carry out the project which will go towards helping patients with colorectal cancer and getting closer to finding a cure in future.

Professor Williams added: “It was a pleasure to watch this hard-working, talented student thrive in a scientific environment. We are both extremely grateful to Bowel & Cancer Research. His PhD research will help improve the treatment and hence the outcome for bowel cancer patients in future.”

Danny's story is rare, but it doesn't have to be unique.

Our Chief Executive Deborah Gilbert said the charity prides itself on funding the best science.

"We specialise in supporting our next generation of research experts through our PhD studentships. Danny’s story is particularly interesting, given its pretty tortuous path and just goes to show that it’s never too late to make a difference, both for yourself, and for others."

As for Danny’s parents: “They’re over the moon,” he said.