Shefford woman meets the man who saved her life after seven-year battle with cancer

PUBLISHED: 15:46 23 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:59 23 January 2018

73-year-old Sandy is now cancer free. Picture: Worldwide Cancer Research

73-year-old Sandy is now cancer free. Picture: Worldwide Cancer Research

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A grandmother from Shefford who battled with cancer for seven years met the man who saved her life when he developed a drug funded by Worldwide Cancer Research.

Sandy Tansley from Shefford endured surgery and countless cycles of chemotherapy for stage three ovarian cancer with no success.

With four tumours spreading to her stomach she was told she had “nothing to lose” and was offered the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial for a new targeted treatment drug olaparib, which arose from the work of the British scientist Steve Jackson.

Two years after starting the trial the tumours in her stomach had completely disappeared.

Today, five years after being given the all clear, Sandy remains in complete remission and with the help of Worldwide Cancer Research, has finally met with Professor Jackson.

Sandy, with her husband, at a park in Shefford. Picture: Worldwide Cancer ResearchSandy, with her husband, at a park in Shefford. Picture: Worldwide Cancer Research

Sandy said: “My oncologist suggested I go on the olaparib trial after seven years of living with cancer. Although very frightened to be going on to something completely different, I knew it was my only hope.

“Within 15 months the tumours were showing a sign of shrinkage, a result previously unimagined after what I’d been through.

“By the end of the second year, they were completely gone. To be cancer free after all those years is a dream come true.

“To be able to watch my grandchildren grow up when I thought I wouldn’t be around - I feel like the luckiest person in the world.

Sandy battled ovarian cancer for seven years and she decided to take part in clinical trials. Picture: Worldwide Cancer ResearchSandy battled ovarian cancer for seven years and she decided to take part in clinical trials. Picture: Worldwide Cancer Research

“I can’t put into words how grateful I am to Steve Jackson - what do you say to the man who saved your life? To get the chance to finally meet the incredible man who has given me my life back and say thank you means the world.”

Olaparib, under the brand name Lynparza, was developed following two decades of ground-breaking research by Jackson.

In the mid 1990s he discovered key proteins that cells use to repair damage to DNA – a major breakthrough Jackson believed could be useful for developing new cancer drugs.

In his ‘eureka’ moment in the mid 1990’s, when using funding from Worldwide Cancer Research, he discovered key proteins that cells use to repair damage to DNA – a major breakthrough Jackson believed could be useful for developing new cancer drugs.

Professor Steve Jackson said: “I don’t tend to think of myself as a life-saver, although if I take a step back for a moment and think about what my research has led to, then I guess I am.

“Without the funding from Worldwide Cancer Research and other cancer charities, this drug simply would not have been developed.

“The faith that Worldwide Cancer Research put in me to fund what was, essentially, blue sky research has allowed us to produce something that has the potential to ultimately help millions of people around the world.

“As a cancer scientist, I don’t work in the clinical arena, so don’t come into contact with patients.

“To be able to meet someone that has benefited from my research, never mind whose life it has actually saved all these years later, is very special, and makes everything worthwhile. It is really quite overwhelming to meet Sandy, and is something I will never forget.”

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