Worldwide Cancer Research Menu


A grandmother from Bedfordshire who battled with cancer for seven years has come face to face with “the man that saved her life”; in an emotional meeting captured on video by Worldwide Cancer Research.

Sandy Tansley (73), from Shefford, endured surgery and countless cycles of gruelling chemotherapy for stage 3 ovarian cancer with no success, and with four tumours spreading to her stomach, the prognosis was not good. After being told she had “nothing to lose”, she was offered the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial for a new targeted treatment drug olaparib, which arose from the work of the British scientist Steve Jackson.

please consider making a donation here

Two years after starting the trial, the tumours in her stomach had completely disappeared. Today, five years after being given the all clear, Sandy remains in complete remission and with the help of Worldwide Cancer Research, has finally met with Professor Jackson, the man she says she owes her life to.

Sandy Tansley said: “My oncologist suggested I go on the olaparib trial after seven years of living with cancer; the chemotherapy wasn’t working and the disease continued to spread.   Although very frightened to be going on to something completely different, I knew it was my only hope.

“Within 15 months the tumours were showing a sign of shrinkage, a result previously unimagined after what I’d been through. By the end of the second year, they were completely gone, and every scan since has shown remission. 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.”

Olaparib, under the brand name Lynparza, was developed following two decades of ground-breaking research by Jackson. In his ‘eureka’ moment in the mid 1990’s when using funding from Worldwide Cancer Research, he discovered key proteins that cells use to repair damage to DNA; a major breakthrough Jackson believed could be useful for developing new cancer drugs.

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

Professor Steve 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. The faith that Worldwide Cancer Research put in me to fund what was, essentially, blue sky research has allowed us to produce something that has the potential to ultimately help millions of people around the world.

“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."

Dr Helen Rippon, CEO at Worldwide Cancer Research added:

“Olaparib is a fantastic example of long-term research into experimental drugs that are beginning to bear fruit, not to mention excellence in British science and innovation that Professor Steve Jackson has led.

“It’s this type of research that can make a world-changing discovery, and our ethos at Worldwide Cancer Research in supporting up-and-coming talent as well as world renowned specialists, allows us to support and nurture those researchers that might not always get a break due to lack of funding.”

Research won’t happen without funding. Worldwide Cancer Research relies on public donations - without this dedication and support, the pioneering projects it funds and discovers would simply not happen.

To donate please click here

Longer-term treatment with olaparib can maintain quality of life and stop cancer progressing

AstraZeneca has today reported that the drug olaparib (Lynparza), which Worldwide Cancer Research played a key role in developing, can be used as part of a maintenance programme to ensure women maintain their quality of life, with few side effects, throughout their treatment. These findings were presented today at the 2017 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago, US taking place from 2-6 June 2017.

The SOLO-2 phase III clinical trial was open to women with BRCA-mutated, platinum-sensitive serous ovarian cancer which had relapsed. The women received 300mg, which equates to 4 tablets, of olaparib, twice a day as part of a maintenance programme. This new tablet form of the drug is significantly less than the 16 capsules a day which is currently prescribed.

The olaparib maintenance programme significantly prolonged the amount of time the women had before the disease progressed, eliminated symptoms of the disease and had low levels of toxicity for up to 27 months after they began taking the drugs. On three separate rating scales (functional, physical well-being and symptoms), women reported a similar quality of life to those taking the placebo which means that the drug had very few side effects. This means that women are more likely continue with their treatment, unlike with traditional chemotherapy drugs where prolonging life often comes at the price of a reduced quality of life, meaning women tend not to continue with the treatment.

Dr Lara Bennett from Worldwide Cancer Research said: "This is extremely exciting, and fantastic news for these women, as it means the drug not only prolongs their life but ensures that it is a good quality of life. It also consolidates our belief that funding discovery stage research, at the start of the drug development journey is vital. Without our research grants to Professor Steve Jackson almost 20 years ago to study DNA repair, this drug might never have been developed. It was Professor Jackson who believed that targeting a DNA repair weakness in cancer cells had the potential to lead to a new generation of cancer drugs and now we can see that he was right."

Read more about our role in helping kick start the development of olaparib here.

About SOLO-2

SOLO-2 was a Phase III, randomised, double-blind, multicentre trial designed to investigate the efficacy of olaparib tablets as a maintenance monotherapy compared with placebo, in patients with platinum-sensitive relapsed gBRCA-mutated ovarian cancer. The trial, conducted in collaboration with the European Network for Gynaecological Oncological Trial Groups (ENGOT) and Groupe d’Investigateurs National pour l’Etude des Cancers de l’Ovaire et du sein (GINECO), randomised 295 patients with documented germline BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations who had received at least two prior lines of platinum-based chemotherapy and were in complete or partial response to their most recent regimen. Eligible patients were randomised to receive either olaparib tablets (300mg twice daily) or placebo.

Ovarian Cancer

Worldwide, ovarian cancer is the 7th most-commonly diagnosed cancer and the 8th most common cause of cancer death in women. The risk of developing ovarian cancer is increased in women with specific inherited genetic abnormalities, including BRCA mutations.

About olaparib (Lynparza)

Olaparib (Lynparza) is an innovative, first-in-class oral poly ADP-ribose polymerase (PARP) inhibitor that may exploit tumour DNA damage response (DDR) pathway deficiencies to preferentially kill cancer cells. It is approved by regulatory authorities in the EU and US for the treatment of women with BRCA mutated ovarian cancer.



  1. Friedlander M., et al. Relationship of health-related quality of life (HRQOL) and   patient-centered outcomes with the clinical outcomes with olaparib maintenance following chemotherapy in patients with germline (g) BRCA-mutated (m) platinum-sensitive relapsed serous ovarian cancer (PSR SOC): SOLO2 phase III trial. Presented at the American Society of Clinica Oncology (ASCO), June 2-6, 2017. Chicago, Illinois, US.