KIND-hearted staff at one of the an automotive manufacturer have given up their Christmas gift so an ill colleague can undergo life-saving treatment.

ZF Peterlee employee Liam Debbage was diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer, Clear Cell Sarcoma, 16 months ago.

The cancer, which was discovered after the 31-year-old injured his shoulder playing squash, is so rare that it only affects around 200 people in the world.

After diagnosis, dad-of-two Liam was given the devastating news that there was no treatment available on the NHS and that he, his wife Michelle and their family and friends must prepare for the worst.

However, after researching the cancer, they found that a drug, Pembrolizumab, which is being used in clinical trials at seven locations around the country, including the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle, has proved effective in treating Clear Cell Sarcoma in the US.

The couple were told that any treatment would need to be funded privately, as there aren’t enough people suffering from the condition to allow trials to be funded on the NHS.

The couple family and friends have been fundraising to reach the £30,000 needed to begin treatment. After passing the £15,000 mark, Liam was told that every one of his ZF Peterlee colleagues has decided to forego their annual Christmas gift from the company, meaning it can instead donate the equivalent money to his fundraising campaign – a huge £16,000. This has been topped up by an extra £1,500 from ZF bosses which means Liam can undergo the treatment.

Liam said “I cannot put into words what this means to me. When they rang me to tell me the news, I broke down. I can now undergo treatment which could potentially help me beat this cancer.

“When I was diagnosed with Clear Cell Sarcoma, I didn’t know what to do as it was such a shock.

“I thought, how can I be so ill when I feel absolutely fine? And then to be told that my cancer is so rare that there was no treatment available on the NHS was an even bigger blow. The whole journey has been awful.

“Now I have hope and have been told that in a matter of a couple of weeks the treatment could start. Thank you to everyone at ZF Peterlee for making this possible.”