Sophie’s Sparkle aids UEA’s rare cancer fight

Sophie's brother Connor wears a white lab coat and sits next to PhD Student Emma. On the other side of Emma is Evie, who is using a pipette to draw liquid from a flask.

A local family have been inspired to use some of their fund, held by Norfolk Community Foundation, to donate £40,000 to a groundbreaking bone cancer research project at the University of East Anglia.

This generous contribution will propel the pioneering work that they are carrying out to combat this devastating disease.

The donation was presented to researcher Dr Darrell Green by Alex and Kirsty Taylor and their children, Connor and Evie. Alex and Kirsty lost their 5-year-old daughter Sophie to a form of bone cancer called osteosarcoma in 2019. They started the Sophie’s Sparkle Fund with the Norfolk Community Foundation in her memory because they wanted to support Norfolk families going through something similar and help Norfolk’s scientists leading the way on research to move closer to a cure.

The family recently visited the University’s Biomedical Research Centre (BMRC) to gain insight into the cutting-edge research being conducted. Spearheaded by Dr Green, the research team has made a remarkable breakthrough with the development of a drug that halts the spread of cancer cells around the body. The drug, CADD522, which the researchers have nicknamed Bensofib after Sophie and Dr Green’s childhood friend, Ben, who succumbed to another type of bone cancer called Ewing sarcoma, has been shown to reduce mortality by 50% in preclinical models – even without the use of other treatments like chemotherapy or surgery. The new medicine does this by preventing bone cancer from spreading to other organs, which is the usual cause of death in cancer patients. Further testing is needed, however, before it is ready for use on patients.

Watch a video of their visit here:
Alex, Kirsty, Evie and Connor visit Dr Green at UEA to find out more about ‘Bensofib’, a drug that could revolutionise bone cancer treatment
Alex, Evie, Connor, Kirtsy and Dr Green outside the BioMedical Research Centre at UEA

“Only 0.02% of all major cancer research funding goes towards bone cancer, so it is only through the hard work of specific charities and personal donations like this that vital work on this devastating disease can continue”, said Dr Green, “This donation brings us one step closer to bringing this drug to trial.”

While this donation will undoubtedly drive progress, an additional £2.3 million is needed to advance the drug to clinical trials. Alex and Kirsty would love to keep contributing to this vital work through their Sophie’s Sparkle Fund.

“This research brings hope to the countless children and families affected by this disease each year. We are determined to make sure no family has to go through what we did,” said Alex, adding that, “I believe that we can get this truly revolutionary drug to trial if we all come together. Every pound we raise gets us one step closer to beating this disease.”

Alex and Kirsty also gave Dr Green a Sophie’s Sparkle t-shirt signed by celebrities, including Michael McIntyre, Peter Crouch and Harry Maguire, who took part in a charity golf tournament organised by Premier League footballer James Maddison. The former Norwich City player first met Sophie in 2018 and has been a supporter of her cause ever since.

Published: 15/03/2024