"I took part in breast cancer research and now I am cancer free."
Beccy Sleigh, who lives near Newmarket, was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 35 years old.
After waking up with a pain in her breast, she visited her doctor who quickly referred her to the Breast Cancer Clinic at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.
Beccy had a mammogram followed by an ultrasound. After waiting one week for her results, she described how she “went into shock” after getting her diagnosis.
“I remember thinking, this is something that I can deal with it. I’ll do what I have to do and I’ll beat it,” she said.
“Going through the process and having a positive mind-set is the best way.”
Watch: Beccy Sleigh meeting Professor Jean Abraham, Director of the Precision Breast Cancer Institute and Addenbrooke’s Breast Cancer Consultant
Beccy was offered to take part in clinical research trials at Addenbrooke’s.
She took part in the Personalised Breast Cancer Programme (PBCP), (opens in a new tab) funded initially by Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust, and now by Cancer Research UK and US-based philanthropic organisation The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research.
Her DNA was read like a barcode and the whole genome of her tumour was sequenced which helped inform her treatment and care plan.
Beccy discovered she carries the faulty BRCA1 gene, which means her risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer is greatly increased.
She signed up to the PARTNER trial, (opens in a new tab) which investigates the efficacy of the drug olaparib with chemotherapy, compared to just chemotherapy alone, for patients who have triple negative or BRCA positive breast cancer.
"I have worked in research so being involved in new drug development was really important for me,” Beccy said.
“I wanted to be part of that experience and give something back to other people.”
“The treatment I received focussed on certain aspects of my diagnosis which were specific to me, which is massively important. It allowed me to find out where my breast cancer had come from and it can help members of my family in the future”.Beccy Sleigh
Beccy was treated at Addenbrooke’s and as her breast cancer was detected early, she finished her treatment and was ‘cancer free’ within six months.
She said: “I am so grateful for the excellent care I received. Being part of the clinical trials where I had additional follow ups was also reassuring.”
Taking part in research trials and the Personalised Breast Cancer Programme allows patients like Beccy to be offered the best treatment tailored to their type of cancer and helps patients make informed decisions for their future.
“I found out through genomic sequencing that my cancer was linked to BRCA1, which meant I had to make some difficult life decisions,” Beccy said.
“Last year I decided to have my ovaries and tubes removed, because of the increased risk, and I didn’t want to go through potential treatment again. Without us taking part in these trials, we wouldn’t have all this knowledge to improve cancer survival rates.”
Beccy has now been cancer free for five years and feels hopeful about the new Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital planned for the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.
As well as clinical space, the seven-storey facility will house three world-leading research institutes, focused on early detection, integrated cancer medicine and a Precision Breast Cancer Institute, that will apply the latest genomic advances to tailor treatment for breast cancer patients.
“It won’t just be benefiting patients here in Cambridge, it can benefit people from all over the world and our children’s children," Beccy said.
“Having research and hospital space, all under one roof, is just brilliant. People can get answers sooner, the clinical trials will happen quicker, and ultimately patients like me, will be in the best place to receive the best care possible.”