A teenage cancer survivor from Cambridge has spoken of her support for the Future Fund’s plans to tackle the disease after tracing the Newcastle University researchers who recruited her to a clinical trial when she was six years-old.
Charlotte Butterworth, now aged 17, contacted Dr Gareth Veal at Newcastle University’s Northern Institute for Cancer Research as part her own science project to find out how her participation in his national studies had furthered the team’s understanding of her condition. She also wanted to find out if her involvement had helped other young cancer patients suffering from the same rare cancer called soft tissue sarcoma.
Her interest in the study was sparked by a school project in which she was challenged to explore an experience in her life. The information she uncovered during a trip to meet Dr Veal and tour the cancer research labs that analysed her blood samples has fuelled her passion for a career in biochemistry.
Cancer a distant memory
She said: “At the time of my cancer I had no connection with the researchers because I was being treated in Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge and my samples were sent off to Newcastle to be looked at. It was fascinating to finally meet the team and find out exactly what was learnt from the study. It was interesting also to hear about the Future Fund’s new plans to develop even more research work like this in Newcastle.
“It’s only because of medical research that my cancer is now just a distant memory. It was just a blip on my lifeline and it’s never held me back in any way. I’m now hoping to study for a biochemistry degree and this whole experience has brought me closer to the possibility of a career in medical research.”
The Future Fund aims to raise £5.5 million to create the Newcastle University Centre for Childhood Cancer, where researchers and clinicians can advance and accelerate studies that have already earned them international recognition. The Fund is a collaborative effort of Newcastle University, Newcastle Hospitals’ Great North Children’s Hospital and the charity North of England Children’s Cancer Research, which has helped fund Newcastle’s research into the disease for the past 30 years.
Reducing side effects
Over the past 15 years Dr Veal has led studies in Newcastle designed to improve the way that chemotherapy drugs are used to treat children, and with new facilities provided by the Future Fund his team will continue to develop less toxic therapies with fewer side effects. Back in 2003, the team analysed Charlotte’s response to the chemotherapy drug Actinomycin D, investigating how the drug was broken down and how long it stayed in her system following treatment.
Dr Veal said: “Our studies have resulted in changes to dosing regimens for some drugs, while for others we carry out real-time therapeutic drug monitoring. This involves adjusting the dose of drug administered to individual cancer patients over a number of days based on the amount of drug in their bloodstream, which reflects how much drug may reach the target tumour cells. This has been shown to improve response rates and minimise toxicity in some patients.
“Having Charlotte spend a day with us in the labs in Newcastle, to get an idea of what being a researcher is all about, really brought home to me why I do the job that I do and the importance of working hard to improve the way that we treat children with cancer. It’s fantastic to see somebody who was successfully been treated for cancer when they were young now having an interest in scientific research and considering this as a career path.”
How to donate to Future Fund
- Via JustGiving
- Call 0191 208 7250
- Text NCFF01 and the amount of your donation to 70070.
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