Today’s the day, it’s finally happening and I’m not sure I could be prouder. That pesky osteosarcoma may have thought it had won, but boy did it underestimate Hannah and what she fuelled up inside of us all, and how strong my promise is to be forever and ever her Chief Chemo Pony.
We’re not there yet and, as I’ve learnt, things always take twists and turns, BUT I’M WRITING TO YOU TO TELL YOU THAT WE’RE ABOUT TO ANNOUNCE OUR FIRST RESEARCH PROGRAMME INTO OSTEOSARCOMA!!
We’re so pleased that it’s with the University of Sheffield, because they really are a leader in bone cancer research, and that it will be headed up by the totally lovely Professor Allie Gartland. I can’t lie, it’s been a tricky 2 years trying to get this started. Firstly, due to the desire to make Hannah proud. We’re continuing what she started and the pressure to keep up the incredible work has been hard, especially without her viewpoint to guide my way. And, secondly, to you guys, our incredible supporters, because I feel such responsibility on my shoulders to spend your money wisely. With your help we’ve raised a staggering amount of money, but cancer research isn’t as easy as choosing your favourite colour saddle pad... when we’re about to spend £230k we wanted to make sure not a single penny was wasted.
Thankfully that’s where my awesome Expert Scientific Panel, headed by Dr Claire Clarkin, comes in, because when Sheffield applied for their grant, Claire and her team helped validate the theory behind it, as even though I’m a Wonder Pony, my brain is not always quite big enough for the sciencey side of things. Allie has also helped me get my brain tuned into the science as I’ve just had my very own tour of her labs in Sheffield University- she reckons I have the potential to lend a hoof or two about the place.
I’ll hand you over to Allie to explain what’s she’s getting up to, thanks to your amazing support. “Osteosarcoma is a particularly nasty disease which has very poor survival rates,” said Professor Gartland. “Unfortunately, not all patients respond to chemotherapy – their tumour becomes chemo-resistant and their overall five-year survival rate is then drastically reduced. It’s shocking to think that treatment for this particularly aggressive form of bone cancer hasn’t changed in the past 30 years.
“There is clearly a need to understand the mechanisms by which chemo-resistance develops so we can find more effective treatments.”
The grant from Hannah’s Willberry Wonder Pony Charity will allow Professor Gartland and her dedicated team to identify new drugs that can be used either alone or in combination with the existing chemotherapy strategy.
Professor Gartland adds: “Our aim is to identify drugs that are currently used to treat other diseases, which may also be a more effective way to treat osteosarcoma – whether on their own or in combination with the current chemotherapy strategy.
“In addition to the grant, the Charity is also funding two PhD researchers who will investigate why osteosarcoma cells become resistant to chemotherapy using the most up to date technologies such as ‘next generation sequencing’ which will provide vital new information and help to find ways to prevent it.”
Importantly for me, Professor Gartland is not only a leading expert in the field, but also she shares the same passion as we all have to show this cancer what we’ve got and not let another person go through the horrid, failed treatment that my best friend did. Sadly with only around 160 new cases each year (and even more sad is that 30 of those are children, just like Hannah), osteosarcoma has attracted little funding, and hence research, until now. With the mega support you guys give us, we’re going to change that, and this is only the start.
I hope you’re as excited as we all are and, don’t worry Han, we’re after that horrid disease.
Lots of love