A YOUNG boy who has a rare genetic condition which affects only 120 people worldwide has inspired a fund-raising campaign to help research into the problem.

Sam Elliott, six, suffers a condition which can cause distressing and sometimes life threatening deformities.

Now Mark Cardwell is running the London Marathon to raise money for the Proteus Syndrome Foundation which is behind research into the condition.

The steel polisher lives close to Sam and also works with his mum, Jo-Ann Elliott (both pictured), of Hindle Street, Darwen, at Polymet Ltd, Blackburn.

The youngster, who attends Avondale Primary School, Darwen, was born with the Proteus Syndrome.

Jo-Ann said: "Thankfully Sam is only mildly affected and we are keeping our fingers crossed that it will stay that way. One of his hands is slightly larger than the other and he has fatty tissues growths on his back.

"He is under the care of consultants and a specialist in London and has regular check-ups but otherwise lives a normal life.

"The research is important and we are keen to help in anyway we can." The cause of the progressive condition is unknown. There are only 120 reported case in the world.

It can affect the growth of any tissue in the body - bones, muscle, skin, veins and organs. Victorian side show performer John Merrick -- the Elephant Man -- is believed to have suffered from an extreme form.

Research has already started with clinical trial and laboratory test of affected tissues but the foundation says funding for the work is due to end soon.

Mark, of Hope Street, Darwen, who celebrates his 40th birthday this year, said: "I wanted to do something to help Sam and other people who suffer from Proteus Syndrome.

"I did the marathon four years ago. I have a back injury so it's not going to be easy.

"I'll just be glad to get over the finishing line."

The London Marathon takes place on Sunday, April 16. Anybody who wants to support Mark's fund-raising effort should ring 01254 693903.

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