Cambridge cancer survivor stars in national ad campaign

New Cancer Research UK funding drive launched as analysis shows over a million lives saved from cancer since the 1980s.

A Cambridge cancer survivor’s 75th birthday is at the heart of a new national advertising and fundraising drive from Cancer Research UK.

Liz Chipchase is one of the stars of the charity’s ‘Together We Are Beating Cancer’ campaign and features on posters that will be on display in the East of England, and across the UK, during September.

Carrying the message ‘We found ways to stop cancer in its tracks, so she can make more milestones’, they feature a smiling Liz holding the 75th birthday cake she feared she would not live to see after being diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2018.

Showcasing the heart-warming moments being made possible for people affected by cancer right now, the campaign aims to shine a light on the invaluable impact cancer breakthroughs have on the lives of people like Liz to inspire more support.

The launch coincides with new data released by Cancer Research UK today (Friday) revealing around 1.2 million deaths have been avoided in the UK since the mid-1980s due to progress in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Over the last four decades, UK cancer mortality rates have fallen by around a quarter, after peaking in 1985 for men and 1989 for women. Had rates stayed the same, it is estimated around 114,000 more lives would have been lost in the East of England.

Liz welcomes the figures and says she is living proof of the power of research after volunteering for a Cancer Research UK trial that she believes saved her life.

Reflecting on her experience, she said: “The number of lives that have been saved in the region shows the immense power of research and I know this better than most. Research into early diagnosis has given me the greatest gift - more time with my loved ones.

“Not only have I celebrated my 75th birthday, but the family and friends who shared it with me included my youngest great-niece, born three years after my cancer was treated. I was also able to see my brother looking fit and well after a protracted battle with pancreatic cancer, to admire the panoramic view from Ivinghoe Beacon after walking the length of the Ridgeway and able to eat my very first burger on a road trip with my son. Each day brings some small or large moments of delight – all things that were impossible to imagine when I heard those devastating words: ‘It’s cancer’.

“That’s why I’m taking part in this vitally important fundraising campaign to help ensure that the life-saving progress in research can continue and more families like mine can make more moments that matter.”

In 2018, Liz took part in a Cancer Research UK-funded clinical trial designed to test a capsule sponge – an ingenious ‘sponge-on-a-string’ method of collecting cells from the oesophagus (food pipe) to look for signs of a condition, known as Barrett’s oesophagus, that can sometimes develop into oesophageal cancer.

Liz had a history of indigestion and acid reflux, so was invited to take part by her GP. The samples revealed that not only did Liz have Barrett’s, but further tests also showed she had cancer.

Liz had two endoscopy procedures to remove the cancerous tissue and follow-up treatment to remove traces of Barrett’s.

“It’s a chain of events that makes me feel so very lucky,” she said. “I believe this trial saved my life.”

The BEST3 clinical trial Liz was on showed the capsule sponge, developed by researchers of the Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre, was able to spot 10 times more cases of Barrett’s oesophagus compared with what GPs ordinarily would.

To take this to the next level, Cancer Research UK is now supporting a new clinical trial that could pave the way for this test to be established as a routine screening programme. It could save more lives by providing a more accurate, affordable and kinder alternative to an invasive endoscopy, the current test.

Liz added: “I shall always be immensely grateful for Cancer Research UK’s involvement in funding research into the development of the capsule sponge. Without the BEST3 trial, my cancer wouldn’t have been found at such an early stage and the course of my life could have been very different.

“Sadly, not everyone diagnosed with cancer will reach key milestones – that’s why the charity’s work is so vital. I might not be here without the scientists who strive to find new ways to outsmart cancer and the incredible fundraisers who make it all possible. So, now I’m determined to do what I can to show my support. I hope I can inspire people across Cambridge to do the same. They could help bring hope and joy to more families like mine.”

Last year Cancer Research UK spent nearly £49 million on research in Cambridge to develop new approaches to cancer prevention, screening and treatment. It is home to the charity’s Cambridge Institute and Cambridge Centre, delivering world-leading research to transform discoveries in the lab into real benefits for people with cancer.

Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson for the East of England, Michael Jarvis, said: “Thanks to the generosity and commitment of our supporters, together, we are beating cancer.

“Our research breakthroughs mean, every day, people are being diagnosed earlier, have access to kinder and more effective treatments, and some cancers are prevented completely. This all adds up to more moments with the people we love – as our new campaign featuring Liz shows.

“Around 38,400 people are diagnosed with cancer every year in the East of England. We’re working towards a world where everyone can live longer, better lives free from the fear of cancer and that’s why we’re calling on people across Cambridge to help us go further and faster in the fight against the disease.

“By donating, fundraising, taking part in one of our Shine Night Walks or volunteering at our shops, they could fund new discoveries that will help more people reach the life-changing moment when their doctor says: ‘It’s gone’.”

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As part of the campaign, people are also being invited to share their personal moments, either of their own cancer journey or that of a loved one, through a dedicated photo-wall and on social media by using #MoreMoments.

Find out more about the capsule sponge and BEST3 trial

1 Sep 2023