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Cancer Open Day offers hope to family living with breast cancer

14 October 2014

The European Cancer Stem Research Institute at Cardiff University welcomed hundreds of people through its doors as part of the first Cardiff Cancer Open Day held recently. Included in those visitors were two women – a mother and daughter from Newport – who were encouraged to attend the Open Day having been personally affected by the disease.

Kimmy Jenkins, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2013, came along to the Open Day with daughter Sinead and took a tour of the Institute's laboratory and listened to lectures by cancer researchers. They were so impressed with the work being carried out at the Institute that Sinead was keen to keep up-to-date on developments and entered a prize draw to win an iPad mini, which had been donated to the Institute by supporter Enterprise rent-a-car. She was delighted to learn that she was the prize winner – "You've made my day," said Sinead, 24 of St Julian's in Newport when presented with her prize by Communications Officer for the Institute, Helen Beddow. "I haven't stopped smiling since you told me. It was amazing seeing and hearing about what the researchers are doing on a daily basis. I can't quite believe that this is taking place on my doorstep – it gives me hope that there is progress being made in this field. If you have ever been effected by cancer never doubt that vital research is happening right here in South Wales! I've never been more sure we will one day find a cure for cancer!"

Since being diagnosed with lobular breast cancer following a routine screening, Kimmy's condition is being treated with drugs that are containing the cancer. She is a shining example of someone who is living with breast cancer and remains an inspiration to daughter Sinead, who is an Admin Resource Officer for Public Health Wales. "We have both learnt so much about cancer," Sinead added, "and in a strange way, we're really grateful that this has happened. We've learnt to appreciate life more, put things into perspective and our relationship is twice as strong for it.

"We have found, though, that there is lots of advice for patients and families who may not survive cancer and also for those who are fortunate enough to beat it. There is, though, a gap in the advice offered to people like my Mum who are living with cancer and we're keen to share our experience – for example, Mum underwent an initial course of chemotherapy, which everyone thinks is horrendous, but she was fine with the treatment – it's doesn't always have to be terrible. We found some of the advice offered to be quite scary, so if sharing our experience helps others in our position, then that's great."

At the Open Day, Kimmy was able to hear more about the drugs that are helping her and find out how they are developed from the initial basic research that is carried out in places such as the European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute. There are currently two experimental anti-breast cancer agents that have been identified by researchers that are in commercial development. Institute Breast cancer expert Dr Richard Clarkson said:- "The current situation is that it takes an incredibly long time to develop just one drug idea and can cost many millions of pounds. We want to change that situation as there are drugs that have been thrown out at the early development stages as not effective because they have not reduced the size of a tumour, but could work as a target for other parts of the tumour such as the cancer stem cell. We are working on one such target, TRAIL, which if our provisional findings are correct, could pave the way for a more personalised approach for patients with breast cancer such as Kimmy.

"We're delighted that Kimmy and Sinead were able to see first-hand the impact that our work is having and that it meant so much to them personally," Dr Clarkson concluded.

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