ERADICATING cancer is an ambitious and onerous goal.

But one fundraising event at a time, Cancer Research UK volunteers in and around Thornbury are determined to beat the disease.

And this year the dream team took a major step forward by amassing its biggest grand total to date, a staggering £40,000, for vital medical research.

Pam Forrest, 67, who has been a member of the 14-strong group for 25 years, told the Gazette: "We are very proud. This last year has been the best. But there is so much more than can be done."

Mrs Forrest, from Alveston, joined Thornbury and District Cancer Research UK after her father George Ripley died of lung cancer although he did not smoke. He was 71 years old. She originally sought out the group to get more information about his illness but soon decided to join the charity's ranks.

And she has been rewarded tenfold for her efforts, she explained, with the tremendous progress achieved in the treatment of cancer over the decades.

Chairman Mary Hurford-Jones, 71, was one of the seven founding members of the Thornbury and District Cancer Research UK branch 35 years ago. She set up the group after her father Archie Clarke and father-in-law Bill Bird were both diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

She said: "We've done extremely well. The committee is a really hard working and loyal. We all work as a team and it is really important. But it takes enormous energy."

Over the last five years, the team has collected more than £400,000 for the charity.

It has established itself as one of the most important Cancer Research branches in the South West of England, raising half of the annual grand total for the Bristol area alone.

"We have made incredible strides, the cancer survival rate has doubled in the last 40 years and children's survival rates have tripled," Mrs Hurford-Jones, from Alveston, added. "And now 95 per cent of people with testicular cancer survive."

The volunteers put on at least two big events each month. They raised £4,000 at a swimathon earlier this year and organised coffee mornings, line dancing fundraisers, zumbathons and even an oriental night over the last few months. The variety and range of fundraisers they put on is key to the group's success according to Mrs Hurford-Jones.

She said: "We try to mix it up and involve the community as these are the people who support us. We have got talented people on the committee, arty people who have got ideas and put them in practice."