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The University of Southampton
Biological Sciences

Cancer researchers join survivors for fundraising marathon

Published: 2 May 2024
PhD researcher Grace Hayes
PhD researcher Grace Hayes marshalling at the 2023 Breast Walk Ever

Professors and researchers from breast cancer research labs in Southampton will be marshalling and supporting walkers at a charity marathon in Hampshire in aid of the research they conduct.

The academic staff are from labs at the University of Southampton where they conduct groundbreaking research into breast cancer. They are helping at this year’s Breast Walk Ever, a charity walk organised by Against Breast Cancer (ABC) starting and finishing in Hursley and taking in the surrounding countryside on Sunday 12 May 2024.

ABC funds research into secondary breast cancer, including several PhD researchers at the University of Southampton.

ABC-funded PhD student Grace Hayes, who is researching bone metastasis from breast cancer, will be marshalling at the event for the second year running. Grace, who works at the University of Southampton’s Centre for Cancer Immunology, said: “The funding that ABC provides enables lifesaving work here at Southampton, so it’s a privilege to be able to turn the tables and support their vital fundraising efforts in this way.”


Karen Arney with Prof Paul Skipp, Dr Charlie Birts & Prof Max Crispin
Karen Arney with Prof Paul Skipp, Dr Charlie Birts & Prof Max Crispin

Researchers and academics from the University of Southampton joining Grace on 12 May include Dr Charlie Birts, Lecturer and Researcher in Antibody Therapeutics funded by ABC, and ABC-funded research technician Anna-Liese Silber.

Breast cancer survivor Karen Arney, from Wellow near Romsey, will be the tail walker for the event, with her springer spaniel Luna. They will follow the last walkers.

Karen, a retired GP and a mum-of-two, is ABC’s sports ambassador, a role she is passionate about due to her own experience with secondary breast cancer. She was first diagnosed with breast cancer 15 years ago, and then with secondary breast cancer five years ago, when she was in the middle of training for the London Marathon.

“I initially put the pain down to running whilst wearing a backpack, but it got worse and it turned out to be cancer in my sternum,” she said. “I wanted to make the best of things, so I carried on and ran the marathon and raised money for ABC.”

Walkers on the 2023 Breast Walk Ever in Hampshire
Walkers on the 2023 Breast Walk Ever in Hampshire

She now has secondary breast cancer in the form of metastases in the breastbone and nodules in her lungs, but is stable and has check-ups every three months.

Karen, 55, has completed five marathons, as well as ultra-distance walking events including circumnavigating the Isle of Wight, and walking from London to Brighton. 

“Running and walking have helped me massively,” she said. “If you are physically fit it stands you in good stead for treatment for any illness, and through running I have built up stamina and endurance. It’s also great for my mental health – when I am running, I leave everything behind.”  

Richard Martin, ABC’s Events Manager, said: “We are delighted to be back in Hampshire close to where a significant proportion of our research takes place in Southampton. We received lots of lovely feedback last year from supporters who relished the chance to talk to a number of our researchers who were volunteering on the day.”

Breast Walk Ever starts and finishes in Hursley, south of Winchester, on Sunday 12 May. Walkers can choose to complete a 10km, a half marathon (21km) or a full marathon (42km) walk. For more information visit the event website.

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