Reflecting on an Extraordinary 2014 for Breast Cancer Campaign

24/12/2014 04:18 GMT | Updated 22/02/2015 10:59 GMT

It's the most wonderful time of the year. And whilst devouring sprouts and our annual rendition of Away in a Manger come a close second, the best thing about the festive season is undoubtedly the chance to gather with family and friends and to reflect on all that has happened over the year.

And as the year draws to a close, it has been a real pleasure for me to reflect on what has been an extraordinary year for Breast Cancer Campaign.

Choosing a personal highlight is, of course, particularly tricky. I'm immediately drawn to the discovery at Barts Cancer Institute in July, as researchers funded by Breast Cancer Campaign identified that the molecule αvβ6 plays a fundamental role in helping breast cancer cells to grow and spread and that it could be a viable new target for treating HER2-positive breast cancer.

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Pic: Dr John F Marshall, Reader in Tumour Biology at Queen Mary University of London's Barts Cancer Institute

This was a discovery built on 10 years of collaboration and hard work in the laboratory. The fact that these scientists spent so long grinding away in the twilight, and that we are now seeing the fruit of this labour, makes it something that is very special to us and it is so inspiring for us to be able to support work like this.

Our most important news of 2014 is, of course, also our most recent. We were delighted to announce last month that we will be merging with Breakthrough Breast Cancer in Spring 2015 to create the UK's largest breast cancer research charity.

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This is, without doubt, the right thing to do for women with breast cancer. United, we will be a stronger, more effective force, committed to putting an end to this dreadful disease. By combining our energies and expertise, we'll make greater progress towards our shared ambition: that, by 2050, no one will die from breast cancer.

I also couldn't look back over 2014 without mentioning wear it pink. Hundreds of thousands of you took part this October, looking good and doing good in pink, and we have raised an outstanding £1.5million and counting! Thank you to each and every one of you.

I shall never quite forget the moment when a passer-by shrieked with surprise at the sight of someone on her train - me - commuting to work in a pink Care Bear onesie... If it wasn't my best moment of the year, it was certainly the hottest.

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Of course, 2014 has also been a year of tremendous challenges. None larger than tackling the unfounded idea that cancer and breast cancer have had enough attention, that they are 'done' and that it's time to move on to something else.

This could not be further from the truth and this slow-growing complacency around breast cancer is something that we are wholeheartedly committed to addressing in 2015.

It has been difficult to see some of the targets that were so fervently fought-for in the NHS cancer plan fifteen years ago starting to be gradually eroded, with two-week waiting-time targets not being met for the first time this year. But we cannot afford to be disheartened when there is so much more to be done.

I have also been struck this year by the enormity of the battle facing us to get our health systems properly geared up to support women with secondary breast cancer.

The fact that women are living longer with secondary breast cancer represents real progress, but we unfortunately do not yet have sufficient structures in place to support them, and care pathways urgently need to be improved; this is an area in which our new organisation will continue to seek significant progress.

But at this time of year we must, once again, give thanks to our supporters: we are so grateful to you for all that you have contributed to Breast Cancer Campaign this year.

The support you have shown us over the last year has been truly humbling. From our Spread the word campaign to our Mother's Day appeal, from our incredible volunteers, campaigners and fundraisers to our wonderful partners - thank you so much for your commitment to funding breast cancer research and for the time and passion that you have given. It is abundantly clear that you understand not only what's important but also what it takes to get things done!

For many of our friends and supporters this time of year is, of course, particularly difficult or bitter-sweet. Please know that we are thinking of you and hoping with you, and that, inspired by you, we will continue to invest in world-class research until we have put an end to breast cancer.

They say that a new year brings a time for new (or renewed) hopes and I have three in particular for 2015:

Firstly, I hope that the new charity will get off to a flying start, because that is what women with breast cancer need. We need to redouble the research effort in this country to achieve our vision of putting an end to breast cancer - there has never been a better time to join forces.

Secondly, I hope that whichever Government takes power in May 2015, they will make cancer a priority, and that they don't let the learning and progress of the last decade or so go to waste.

Finally, we sincerely hope that a solution can be found to enable people to access the treatments they need for breast cancer. I hope that the days of people being forced to sell their houses, or camp outside the Department of Health in order to get the help they need, remain a thing of the past.

It is thanks to your support - the research you've helped fund and the advances you've made possible - that we are able to enter 2015 with such hope and ambition. We truly believe that, together, we will put an end to breast cancer, once and for all.

So, however you and your families celebrate at this time of year, on behalf of everyone at Breast Cancer Campaign may I wish you a peaceful and joy-filled Christmas-time and a very Happy New Year.

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