‘ACT are building awareness and creating a community to bring about real and meaningful change.’
My mum’s story is no different to so many others. Like a lot of women, she had a history of worrying about lumps on her body that turned out to be nothing serious. This was until her diagnosis of cancer, when a lump on her breast was neither trivial nor benign.
Each story is unique, and deeply personal to the family who’s loved one is diagnosed. For her, the biopsy confirmed a HER2 (Human Epithelial Receptor) positive type of malignancy.
The downside of HER2 cancers is that they are aggressive; the bright side is that a targeted therapy for treating them has been developed and approved. Without the specific therapy that my mother was able to access, I’m not sure she would be alive.
The picture is of me and my mom, taken last year in Verona. Though she got breast cancer a decade ago, the psychological impact it had on her was huge, and it took years for her to recover properly. I am currently undertaking a PhD, researching into cancer immunotherapy, inspired to help women like my mother by her experience.
Not all women are as lucky as my mum. I am constantly reminded of the importance of drug discovery, and of translating these discoveries into therapies for patients. Some breast cancers lack an effective treatment. More frustrating, some will have a drug or therapy which might still be under development – a personalised treatment just out of reach.
I grew up in a very small Italian village. Away from city life, I heard many stories of women with difficult cases of breast cancer who were sent home with the diagnosis of ‘untreatable’. None of them will have known about clinical trials, or even who to ask for help. This is an experience that is likely shared all around the world.
But what if the option was there? Families have gained precious years together thanks to treatments in clinical trials, and lives can be extended or saved. A lack of knowledge and access to clinical trials is causing people all around the world to miss out on their best chance of overcoming cancer. This can’t be allowed to continue.
As a cancer researcher I have followed the story of Baroness Tessa Jowell and was immediately drawn to it, as many others have been. ACT for Cancer are building awareness and creating a community to bring about real and meaningful change.
My sincere hope is that enrolment in adaptive clinical trials will become a genuine possibility for every patient who could benefit from them. It is not just the fact that clinical trials can reshape research to improve treatments. By supporting ACT, we are creating every chance for everyone.