Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton
Southampton Clinical Trials UnitNews

Cancer campaigner and former Saints footballer celebrates reaching £1.3million at SCTU

Published: 29 September 2022
Francis Benali at the SCTU

Cancer Research UK campaigner and former Saints footballer, Francis Benali, has celebrated reaching £1.3million in his bid to help more people beat the disease with a visit to the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit.

The Southampton father-of-two who pushed himself to the limit to collect over a million pounds in donations across three ultra-endurance challenges has added another £156,000 to his total which was revealed at a special ceremony at the Cancer Research UK Southampton Clinical Trials Unit. 

The latest donation follows a gala ball to celebrate the 53-year-old’s achievements in which he ran over 1,000 miles to every Premier League ground in the UK in just 21 days in 2014, ran and cycled to 44 Premier League and Championship grounds over a fortnight in 2016 and then attempted 7 Ironman triathlons in 7 days in 2019.

The May event at the Mick Channon suite at St Mary’s Stadium was attended by 438 people and included an auction of football memorabilia and a trip to meet popstar Robbie Williams. Donations given to Cancer Research UK allow the charity’s scientists, doctors and nurses to make new discoveries, drive progress and bring hope to everyone affected by cancer.

Francis Benali MBE said: “My family and I are eternally grateful for the support of so many people who have helped raise this huge sum of money for Cancer Research UK.  Without so much kindness and hard work none of this would have been possible.  The recent sell out gala dinner at St Mary’s Stadium typified the generosity shown by so many. The aim has always been to raise as much as we could so that more people can beat cancer.”

To mark the significance of reaching this latest figure, Francis and his team attended the world-leading Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, based at the University of Southampton's Centre for Cancer Immunology, where experts are striving to develop kinder and more effective treatments for a range of different types of cancer.

Thanks to donations, the Cancer Research UK funded facility has made huge strides in developing better ways of detecting and treating the disease that can improve survival and offer a better quality of life to the one in two people diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime*.

Peta Durrant, Head of Operations at the Southampton Clinical Trials Unit, said: “We are so grateful to Franny Benali for his continued fundraising efforts. Thanks to donations, we are able to continue to design and run clinical trials of new treatments for all types of cancers and new ways of detecting cancer at an earlier stage when it is more treatable. We are delighted to welcome Franny to the unit to celebrate his achievements and thank him for everything he has done to support our Cancer Research UK-funded work.”

Prof Tim Underwood, Cancer Research UK scientist and Professor of gastrointestinal surgery at the University of Southampton supported Franny during his challenges and said: “Donations are absolutely vital to the work we do in developing new ideas, making discoveries and transforming our research into treatments that can help save lives. Over the past eight years, Franny Benali has not only shown an outstanding commitment to Cancer Research UK but he has collected an incredible sum of money to help fund people like me and my team, so that patients have a better chance of beating cancer.”

If anyone would like to continue supporting Franny’s challenge, please head to:

Notes for editors

* Ahmad AS et al. Trends in the lifetime risk of developing cancer in Great Britain: Comparison of risk for those born from 1930 to 1960. Br J Cancer 2015;bjc.2014:606.

About Cancer Research UK

· Cancer Research UK is the world’s leading cancer charity dedicated to saving lives through research.

· Cancer Research UK’s pioneering work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has helped save millions of lives.

· Cancer Research UK has been at the heart of the progress that has already seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.

· Today, 2 in 4 people survive their cancer for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that by 2034, 3 in 4 people will survive their cancer for at least 10 years.

· Cancer Research UK supports research into all aspects of cancer through the work of over 4,000 scientists, doctors and nurses.

· Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK's vision is to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured.

For further information about Cancer Research UK's work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 0300 123 1022 or visit

Privacy Settings