Cancer survivor undertaking drugs trials to help future generations fight the disease

Cathy Smith pictured at her Ravenshead home
Cathy Smith pictured at her Ravenshead home

A Mansfield cancer patient who is the only person left in Britain to be trialling a new drug hopes it could help future generations in the fight against the potentially killer disease.

Cathy Smith, from Ravenshead, has battled cancer for more than 11 years, was given between six months to a year to live in 2008 and has undergone a gruelling 75 rounds of various forms of chemotherapy.

But the 54-year-old is continuing her fight with cancer by taking part in new forms of treatment through drug trials and research.

Since 2012 Mrs Smith has been trialling Kadcyla a targeted drug with fewer side effects, used on women with incurable oestrogen-positive breast cancer with the purpose of prolonging the life of a patient.

And while many worldwide were involved in initial testing, she is now just one of 19 people across the globe to still be receiving the tri-weekly injections.

Kadcyla is available through the cancer drugs fund to other women, and despite fears it would be removed because of its cost and low success rate, has had a reprieve and will remain available for the time being.

But it is this pioneering approach to developing new drugs that she regards as the most important factor.

“I’m a great believer in research, and I want to show people how important it is to take part,” she told the Chad

“If they have an opportunity to put themselves forward for it, they should do.”

French-born Mrs Smith first came over to England in 1983 to pursue a career as a musician, playing drums.

Married with one son, she worked for Nottingham City Council but was forced to step down due to illness.

She was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, undergoing chemotherapy, a mastectomy and radiotherapy to shrink a tumour.

In 2008 it was found that she had a secondary tumour in the liver and underwent further chemotherapy and was given up to a year to live.

Then in 2011, she had to have her other breast removed as the cancer returned and had another round of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

She has taken part in a series of research, including the successful identification of the breast cancer gene and also another combination of drugs trial with a drug company, which went horribly wrong and she nearly died from the side effects.

And while she knows she will never be free from the illness, she has no end of praise for the efforts of the NHS.

She said “They do a fantastic job it is not easy for anyone. I feel like I’m part of a team.

“In 10 years the advancement in cancer detection, equipment and drugs has been phenomenal and I’m a great believer in research, I do want to tell people how important it is to take part,”

“Also we cannot thank people enough for raising and collecting money for research too as without our supporters’ advances would be slow.

“Cancer and cancer treatment is very challenging physically and mentally and hard to deal with.

“At some point there may come a time when there is no other drug out there for me or my body cannot keep going, as these drugs are very toxic. Still I need to keep on fighting for as long as I can and I’m really proud to be doing something that could help future generations.

“Cancer is very clever, responds differently in all individual affected by it. And this is why finding a cure is still a way away. We will have to learn to live with cancer.”

But while work on new treatments never stops, Mrs Smith says more still needs to be done on prevention.

She says many people do not even want to talk about the illness, although she insists attitudes are beginning to change.

As a breast cancer patient, she knows catching it early is imperative, particularly if there is a family history.

“I do not understand why we don’t have breast screening sooner. My cancer would have been picked up had I been screened earlier.

We have got to be proactive with prevention and if you have a family history of cancer, go to your GP and ask to be referred to the genetic team. It’s a simple blood test, that’s all it is.

“Men and women have to respond to their body, if they think something is wrong, they need to see their GP about it.”