CORONATION Street star Julie Hesmondhalgh has thanked soap fans and campaigners after a cancer petition reached 20,000 signatures.

The Accrington-born actress has been a keynote supporter of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund’s appeal to generate more awareness of the condition.

Tonight, the famous ITV soap is set to screen the final scenes for Julie’s much-loved character, Hayley Cropper, who has opted to end her own life while suffering from the illness.

Julie has met Maggie Watts, the Scunthorpe secretary behind the petition, who lost her husband Kevin to the condition in 2009.

And as her storyline and soap career draws to a close, Julie told her 71,379 Twitter followers that her ‘big hope’ was that the petition would reach 20,000 names.

If the awareness drive goes on to generate backing from 100,000 people then that will force the issue to be debated in the House of Commons.

Supporters of the cause say that while the condition is the fifth leading cause of UK death cancer deaths, only around one per cent of research funding is concentrated on tackling it.

Survival rates are said to have barely improved over the past 40 years.

The same cancer this week resulted in the death of actor Roger Lloyd Pack, alias Trigger in Only Fools and Horses.