Lives of the fellows

Keith Ronald Durrant

b.8 April 1935 d.30 December 1989
TD(1976) MB BS Lond(1959) MRCP(1964) DMRT(1970) FFR(1972) FRCR(1975) FRCP(1986)

Keith Durrant was born and died in Oxford, where his father had been in business. He was closely involved in the Oxford medical scene for many years and was a leader in cancer research and treatment. He was educated at Magdalen College School and gained a scholarship to Oxford University to read medicine. Instead of taking this up he chose to enter St Bartholomew’s Hospital medical school, London. While he was there two important events took place - he met his wife, Jill Tufft, who was also a student there, and as house surgeon in neurosurgery to John O’Connell he began to develop an interest in cancer and in brain tumors.

Before obtaining his membership of the College in 1964 he had had wide medical experience both at Bart’s and at Oxford, where he held house posts at the United Oxford Hospitals from 1961-63, and he had decided to make his career in radiotherapy and oncology in order to realize his chief interest which was in the research and treatment of cancer. He trained in Oxford under Frank Ellis whose enthusiasm brought many able youngsters into the field of cancer studies. During his training in Oxford he was seconded to the Institut Gustave Roussey in Paris where he greatly benefited from the dynamic influence of professors Bernard Pierquin and Daniel Chassagne. The interests and friendships he made at this time were to influence his later career.

In 1973 he was appointed consultant in radiotherapy and oncology at Oxford and was physician in administrative charge of the department from 1984 until the time of his death. He was also a visiting consultant to Swindon and Banbury for many years. He was elected a Fellow of the College in 1986.

Keith Durrant had a major interest in breast cancer. He helped to found the Oxford Breast Group and took an active part in the Cancer Research campaign studies of adjuvant therapy in early breast cancer. Latterly he was involved with Richard Peto in the international overview studies on breast cancer trials. He worked in the Oxford Cancer Research Campaign unit on radiobiological studies, with John Hopewell, taking these into clinical practice with his work on yttrieum-90 in bladder cancer and iodine-125 implantation in carcinoma of the prostate.

He was chairman of the British Institute of Radiology working party on fractionation, which initiated a pilot study of accelerated fractionation in the treatment of advanced bladder cancer. He led research on a new form of radiation treatment for cancer known as boron capture neutron therapy and was a councillor of the International Society for Neutron Capture Therapy. He was also deeply involved in the UK research programme aimed at providing research facilities at the Harwell laboratory, and he played a key part in setting up the European concerted action on boron neutron capture therapy, funded by the medical and health research programme of the EEC. As a member of its project management group he was responsible for overseeing the clinical activities and was due to chair the first clinicians’ meeting in Lausanne at the time of his death.

In Oxford, Keith took his full share of the burdensome, yet important, administrative duties that take up so much professional time. He organized medical student teaching for some years, was chairman of the regional radiotherapy subcommittee and of the Medical Staff Council’s section of surgery at Oxford. At a national level, he was examiner for the Royal College of Radiologists and a member of its education board. He was also its regional adviser in radiotherapy and oncology.

A few years ago, with others, he saw the need for a new grouping in order to bring more closely together research workers and clinicians within different disciplines m the field of cancer studies and he helped to found the British Oncological Association. He became chairman of its scientific committee and hosted its second annual meeting in Oxford in 1987. Without his help in its formative stages the Association would not have established itself so successfully. His desire for cross-fertilisation in research and clinical practice also led him to be co-founder of the Société Francophone de Cancérologie. He was a member of the gynaecological cancer group of the European Organization for Research m the Treatment of Cancer, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine.

Outside medicine, Keith supported local affairs as a member of Woodstock Town Council and governor of the Marlborough School. For almost 20 years he was an enthusiastic member of the Territorial Army, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel and being awarded the Territorial Decoration. He loved life - good food and wine, his lovely house and garden, hill walking, fly-fishing, sailing and travelling were all great interests. He was a lover of the arts - in music, particularly opera; in literature, especially Proust, and he enjoyed amateur acting.

Most of all, he was a family man - loving his life with Jill and their three children as they grew up. It gave him great pleasure to know that all had made a firm start in their careers. They had two daughters and a son: Sally obtained her PhD, Charlotte followed him as a medical student at Bart’s, and Dominic went into catering. Keith died at the height of his clinical career, with so much more to be achieved had he lived. Blessed with great personal charm, good looks and warmth of character, he had an infectious gift of laughter. Cancer is not readily associated with humour, but Keith's insight and sympathy inspired a particular trust in patients and colleagues alike.

C H Paine

[Brit.med.J., 1990,300,1395-6; The Independent, 7 Feb 1990; Oxford Times, 5 Jan 1990; Oxford Mail, 30 Jan 1990; Oxford Med.School Gaz, Trinity Term 1990,p.24; Clin.Onocology, (1990)2:1-00]

(Volume IX, page 142)

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