This is the emotional moment a grandmother finally met the man behind the experimental drug that saved her life.
Sandy Tansley, 73, endured surgery and countless cycles of chemotherapy for stage three ovarian cancer without success and had four tumours spread to her stomach.
She was told that she had “nothing to lose” when she was offered the chance to take part in a clinical trial for an experimental cancer drug.
The grandmother-of-six would never have met her youngest Harry, aged four, if it was not for the success of an experimental trial.
Two years after starting the trial, the tumours in her stomach had completely disappeared.
The targeted treatment drug olaparib came from the work of the British scientist Steve Jackson.
Sandy is now in complete remission and, with the help of Scottish charity Worldwide Cancer Research, has finally met Professor Jackson.
She explained: “My oncologist suggested I go on the olaparib trial after seven years of living with cancer — the chemotherapy wasn’t working and the disease continued to spread.
“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, and every scan since has shown remission.
“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.
“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.”
Sandy, from Shefford, Bedfordshire, says she owes her life to the English professor.
Olaparib, under the brand name Lynparza, was developed following two decades of research by Jackson.
In the 1990s the scientist, using funding from Worldwide Cancer Research, discovered key proteins that cells use to repair damage to DNA which he believed could be useful for developing new cancer drugs.
He set up his own company called KuDos to develop these drugs – one of which was olaparib.
A decade later, clinical trials of olaparib began across the world, involving a small number of patients in a similar position to Sandy Tansley.
The drug has since been granted approval in the UK, the EU and the USA as a targeted therapy for ovarian cancer.
Professor Jackson was overwhelmed to finally meet someone whose life had been saved by his drug.
He 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.”
Dr Helen Rippon, CEO at Worldwide Cancer Research added: “Olaparib is a fantastic example of long-term research into experimental drugs that are beginning to bear fruit, not to mention excellence in British science and innovation that Professor Steve Jackson has led.”
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