A UNIVERSITY professor researching new anti-cancer drugs in the United States is taking on an epic fundraising trek after losing his own father to the disease.

Steven Fletcher will walk from Baltimore to Washington DC today in memory of his much-loved father, Charles Fletcher, a retired panel beater and grandfather-of-two from Wolsingham.

Charles, 83, died in January following a two-year battle with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. His death hit his family hard, especially his four children, Helen, Joseph, Tony and Steven, who Charles had raised single handedly since 1984 when he successfully fought for sole custody.

Steven, who is now Professor of Chemistry at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy in Baltimore, credits his own academic success to his father’s love and encouragement, and was keen to channel his grief into something positive.

“Education was terribly important to dad, and he pushed us as much as possible at school,” said Steven, 40.

“Despite holding down a full-time job and looking after four kids, he never once missed a parents-teachers evening. All four of his kids hold university degrees.

“As a way to deal with my grief, I wanted to have something to focus on, particularly something that my dad would be proud of. Given he died from cancer, it made sense to concentrate on that. Since my job focuses on cancer research, I wanted to do something other than simply throwing myself into work. So, after a couple of drinks, I created a JustGiving page for a walk from Baltimore in Maryland to Washington, D.C.

“The next morning, I discovered that people had already made hundreds of pounds of donations, so I was committed. There is no going back now.”

Steven will set off on the 38-mile trek from the University of Maryland at 7.30am and hopes to arrive at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington 13 hours later. He will be joined by two students from the School of Pharmacy, including a student whose father is battling the same type of cancer as Charles.

“The route largely follows Route One highway, so a big challenge will be avoiding the traffic,” said Steven, who has been walking at least five miles a day, five times a week to train for the trek.

After smashing his original target of £2,500, Steven hopes to raise £4,000 for Cancer Research UK.