Image: Christine O'Connell and One More City cycling team. One More City wear special edition clothing from cycling brand Rapha, which is on sale to the wider public, with all proceeds going to support our research. Credit: Saskia Martin.
One More City takes place every October during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s a fundraising event that has a simple ethos: the journey is never over; the cyclists are always progressing towards the next city, with more kilometres to complete, climbs to conquer and more challenges to face.
“This is akin to the reality of anyone living with cancer,” Christine explains, “but especially secondary cancer patients, for whom the challenge is never over; there are always more treatments to endure, more scans to face, more side effects to manage.”
The campaign has so far raised more than £250,000 in total, and at the end of 2022 had secured enough money to fund two PhD studentships to find much-need new treatment options for women with stage 4 breast cancer.
One More City has already funded a PhD student Kastė Jurgaitytė at Imperial College London. Collaborating with ICR scientists, she has been working on the development of an innovative targeted treatment for secondary breast cancer.
The ICR is now recruiting a PhD researcher to study how patients respond to treatment in metastatic triple negative breast cancer, a type of breast cancer with limited treatment options and often poor outcomes.
We also have plans in place for a third PhD student funded by One More City, with more than £34,000 already raised towards the campaign’s £120,000 goal.
“Discovering the treatments of the future”
Christine says: “By funding a PhD, we’re contributing more than just a piece of equipment – we’re helping to give someone a future, and that someone will become a great scientist and a long-term asset in our mission to defeat cancer.
“It's also important to us that our donors can see the direct impact of their funds, and they value opportunities to hear directly from our PhD students about their ground-breaking work.”
One More City sees riders move from city to city, starting where the previous year’s route finished, and the main ride in 2023 will take place from the 28 September to the 1 October, from Munich to Venice.
All the teammates have their own reason for riding, and many have been personally touched by cancer.
Christine started the campaign in 2017 when she and four friends rode from London to Paris to raise money for breast cancer support services – something she had benefited from following her own diagnosis and treatment in 2012.
“Giving patients a longer life”
Christine says: “I’d always worried my cancer would come back, but I hadn’t really thought about how it would happen. It was hard to accept how one minute you were seemingly cancer-free, and the next you were facing an incurable disease that could progress at any stage.”
Just months after her first fundraising cycle, Christine learned her cancer had returned and had spread to her brain and her bones.
Following surgery and CyberKnife (a specialist type of radiotherapy), she needed a new drug treatment regime to keep her cancer at bay. Fortunately palbociclib had been approved for use on the NHS just months before – earlier trials of the treatment in the UK were led by the ICR. She’s now on her 61st cycle of palbociclib and her cancer is stable.
“The more I learned about secondary breast cancer,” Christine says “the more I realised that this was where our fundraising should be going. In 20-30% of women diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer, the disease later spreads to another part of the body – and my hope is that One More City will help find a way to give patients a longer life.”
Our scientists have been involved in the discovery and development of many targeted treatments that are helping breast cancer patients live longer and with a better quality of life.
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“A realistic hope”
“We need to stay one step ahead of cancer,” Christine says, “and for patients like me it gives us hope to know that the ICR is working to make sure when one treatment fails, there'll be something else available.
“My hope is that one day we will be able to say cancer is a chronic disease that you can live with and live well with. I think this is a realistic hope.
“Curing cancer is of course the ultimate goal but the more I learn about the complexity of treating cancer in its multiple forms, the more I have tempered my hopes.
“I am proud to say that through the One More City campaign we are funding future scientific talent who we hope will play a key role in improving the lives of people with cancer.”
Dr Rachael Natrajan, who heads our Breast Cancer Functional Genomics team, was at the launch of One More City, and continues to support the campaign.
Rachael and her team are currently investigating how changes to genes help breast cancer spread and develop resistance to treatment.
Image: Dr Rachael Natrajan and One More City cycling team. Rachael says: “The cyclists’ new jersey design may have been inspired by the work of our scientists, but we take inspiration from all those who will be wearing it.” Credit: Dan Glasser, @danglasser.
Rachael said: “We’re really grateful to have support from Christine and the One More City team. Our research is constantly moving forward, and we’re starting to see great progress in the treatment of secondary breast cancer, but there’s still a long way to go.
“Helping to create better treatments, and a better future for people like Christine is the reason we keep going. As One More City take on their next cycling challenge, we’re moving forward with ours – to improve the outlook for people with advanced breast cancer.”