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Cancer survivor meets scientist behind drug that ‘saved her life’

Sandy Tansley said she feels like the luckiest person in the world to be able to watch her grandchildren grow up.

A grandmother who fought cancer for seven years has come face to face with “the man who saved her life” after taking part in a drug trial.

Sandy Tansley had endured surgery and numerous cycles of chemotherapy for stage three ovarian cancer over the years.

The 73-year-old from Shefford in Bedfordshire had four tumours spreading to her stomach when she was told she had “nothing to lose” and should take part in a trial for a new targeted drug, olaparib.

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Sandy Tansley, left, and daughter Karen (Sandy Tansley/PA)

Two years after starting the treatment, the tumours in her stomach had disappeared.

Scottish-based charity Worldwide Cancer Research organised for her to meet Professor Steve Jackson, the scientist who developed the drug, to mark her five years in remission.

Ms Tansley said:  “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.”

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Ms Tansley meets Prof Jackson (Worldwide Cancer Research / PA)

Olaparib, under the brand name Lynparza, was developed following two decades of research by Professor Jackson, with funding from the charity.

He discovered key proteins that cells use to repair damage to DNA.

The scientist 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 Ms Tansley.

The drug has since been granted approval in the UK, the EU and the US as a targeted therapy for ovarian cancer.

Professor 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.

“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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