The sudden death of a British cancer expert was met with shock and sadness by the Duke of Cambridge and colleagues who said that he had inspired a generation of scientists and doctors.
Professor Martin Gore, 67, suffered total organ failure on Thursday morning following a vaccination against yellow fever.
Prof Gore an oncologist who had worked at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital for more than 35 years, was known internationally for his work on skin, ovarian and renal cancers and had pioneered work in immunotherapy, and the molecular basis of the disease.
He was made a CBE in the Queen's birthday honours in 2016 for services to oncology and the Duke of Cambridge, as president of the Royal Marsden, presented him with a lifetime achievement award in 2015.
A source close to the Royal Family said the Duke was ‘deeply saddened’ by the death, and had written to the family personally to express his condolences.
Prof Charlie Swanton, of The Francis Crick Institute, who trained under Prof Gore at the Royal Marsden said: “He was a truly great man. He dedicated his life to improving the evidence base for cancer care and he was a true inspiration to oncologists around him, as well as a pioneer in immunotherapy.
“There is barely a hospital in Britain that hasn’t got a medical oncologist in it inspired by Martin, and they would have walked to the South Pole for him if he had demanded it.
“Every patient meant something to him, each one mattered. I adored working for him. He was a very very funny man, the life and soul of the party, even when there wasn’t a party.
“Getting a cancer diagnosis is tough but he would always know what to say to help lift a person. I am devastated that he is gone. He will be sorely missed.”
Prof Gore was also a professor of cancer at the Institute of Cancer Research and a former medical director at the Royal Marsden.
An inquiry will now be carried out by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), to find out whether the yellow fever vaccine was responsible for his death. The yellow fever vaccine is a live culture and so more risky than a synthetic version.
Under NHS guidelines over 60s are not routinely given the jab because they are at far greater risk of serious side effects. The Royal Marsden said Prof Gore had not had the vaccination at the hospital.
Jonathan Ball, Professor of Molecular Virology, University of Nottingham, said: “Whilst the vaccine is very safe it is known that serious side-effects can occur and the risk of these developing does seem to be greater in the over-60s and very young infants.
“Side effects are well-documented and that blanket vaccination shouldn’t be the norm; instead it should only be given following a proper risk assessment taking into account the likely risk of adverse effect versus the likely risk of being exposed to the virus.”
Today scientists and colleagues from around the country lined up to pay tribute to Prof Gore, whose work has saved thousands of lives, and whose legacy will continue after his death.
Prof James Larkin, Consultant Medical Oncologist, The Royal Marsden, said: “He worked tirelessly to improve outcomes for patients with cancer in the UK and was never happier than when in the clinic with his team at the Marsden looking after patients.
“He was truly larger than life with his warmth, generosity, kindness and extraordinary sense of humour.
“Amongst all the tears and sadness, I feel extremely lucky and privileged to have met Martin and to have spent so many wonderful years working with him.”
Prof Michel Coleman, Professor of Epidemiology and Vital Statistics, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, added :“I knew Martin well and I am very sad to learn of his sudden death.
“He had so much to offer. He was a true expert, with encyclopaedic knowledge. He was a gentleman to the core, and unfailingly generous with his time and wisdom.”