Sky News sports presenter Jacquie Beltrao has met the scientists who led the early research into the breast cancer drug she credits with keeping her alive.
The team, part-funded by Breast Cancer Now, discovered how a cancer drug known as olaparib, could be used in a targeted way to treat certain cancers.
Jacquie, 58, made an emotional visit on Thursday 8th June to The Institute of Cancer Research, London to meet the team behind the breakthrough and learn more about their vital work to find new ways to prevent, diagnose, treat and help people to live well with breast cancer.
The mum-of-three was diagnosed with oestrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer in 2013 and had a mastectomy followed by chemotherapy. In 2020 she received the heart-breaking news the disease had spread. Jacquie has secondary breast cancer that had been caused by a rare somatic BRCA 1 mutation in the cancer, meaning the cancer is non-inherited and can’t be passed down.
When breast cancer cells spread from the breast to other parts of the body it’s called secondary or metastatic breast cancer and although treatable, it can’t be cured.
But at her last scan in April 2023, Jacquie was told she currently has no detectable evidence of the disease. Jacquie will need to continue her treatment and have regular check-ups as it doesn’t mean she is cured, but it’s extremely good news.
Celebrating on Instagram, she said: “A massive team has got me to this point, and I know very few of them. My oncologist, my surgeon, the nurses at Parkside Private Hospital - of course I know them all but what about the amazing research team who came up with my drug olaparib? I’ll never know them but I’m in their debt.”
To grant Jacquie’s wish to meet some of the researchers who helped to bring the drug she takes every day to patients, she was invited to the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research (ICR).
Jacquie met leading scientists Professor Andrew Tutt and Professor Chris Lord who were part of the team in 2005 who discovered that PARP inhibitors, which include olaparib, could selectively kill cancer cells with changes in their ‘Jolie genes’ – also known as BRCA1 and BRCA2.
The team were funded by Breast Cancer Now and Cancer Research UK.
She also learnt about the centre’s latest work to help prevent and treat secondary breast cancer including newly published research* showing why breast cancer cells that have spread to the lungs may ‘wake up’ following years of sleep - forming incurable secondary tumours.
Jacquie said: “It’s now three years since I received the devastating news that I had secondary breast cancer and I wouldn’t be here, marking my ‘cancerversary’, if it wasn’t for the incredible work of scientists including the team at the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre at the ICR.
“It’s been so inspiring to meet Andrew and Chris and hear about their amazing research which brings such hope to people like me who are living with breast cancer. But they wouldn’t be able to do their vital work without the help of Breast Cancer Now’s dedicated supporters, which is why we need people to raise money and donate to fund life-changing research.”
Professor Andrew Tutt, director of the Breast Cancer Now Toby Robins Research Centre at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “Olaparib’s development was underpinned by over 25 years of research at the ICR. In 2005 we made a key discovery – showing that PARP inhibitors could selectively kill cancer cells with faults in their BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes. This finding was crucial to realising the benefits of using PARP inhibitors to treat hereditary cancers and we’re immensely grateful to Breast Cancer Now and all of their supporters who helped fund that research.
“Meeting people, like Jacquie, who’ve benefitted from the drug is always incredibly rewarding and it was great to have the opportunity to share our work with her.”
Dr Simon Vincent, director of research, support and influencing at Breast Cancer Now, said: “We know that for years after finishing breast cancer treatment many women fear the disease returning and spreading to other parts of the body where it becomes incurable. With an estimated 61,000 people living with secondary breast cancer in the UK, more research to understand and treat it is vital. This is why right now we’re funding more than £4 million of research to help improve treatments, care, and services for people affected by secondary breast cancer.
“Jacquie’s fantastic ability to talk so openly about her own experience of the disease and her interest in our world-class research has helped raise awareness about secondary breast cancer and we would like to say a huge thank you to her for all her help and support.”
Find out more about Breast Cancer Now’s life-saving research which is only possible thanks to the incredible generosity of its supporters: breastcancernow.org/research
To find out more about secondary breast cancer and learn the signs and symptoms visit: breastcancernow.org/sbcsymptoms
For more information, please contact the Breast Cancer Now press office at email@example.com or call 07436 107914.
Notes to editors:
About Breast Cancer Now:
If you’re experiencing breast cancer we’re here, whenever you need us. Be it through our support services, trusted breast cancer information or our specialist nurses who you can reach via our free Helpline and 24/7 Online Forum. Backed by dedicated campaigners, we’re fighting for the best possible treatment, services, and care, for anyone affected by breast cancer. And support from our amazing fundraisers helps ensure our life-saving research and life-changing support can happen.
If you’re worried about breast cancer, or have a question about breast health, we’re here to support you every step of the way. Speak to our expert nurses now by calling our free helpline on 0808 800 6000 or visit forum.breastcancernow.org