Press release posted 26 March 2024

Runcorn-based 34-year-old Catherine Craven-Howe is joining 50,000 runners for the London Marathon on Sunday 21 April 2024 to raise money for breast cancer research in young women.

Catherine, who is currently studying medicine at Liverpool University, was the first participant in a pioneering cancer research project known as the Breast Cancer Risk Assessment in Young Women (BCAN-RAY). It is an initiative that is one of the first of its kind in the world which aims to identify young women who are at risk of developing breast cancer in their 30s.

Funded by The Christie Charity and Cancer Research UK, BCAN-RAY was established in memory of Sarah Harding, a member of the pop group Girls Aloud, who died from breast cancer at the age of 39 in 2021. Sarah grew up in Stockport, Greater Manchester and her final wish was to find new ways of detecting breast cancer early, when it is more treatable. The project is supported by Sarah’s family, friends and Girls Aloud bandmates Cheryl Tweedy, Kimberley Walsh, Nadine Coyle and Nicola Roberts, as well as Dr Sacha Howell who was Sarah Harding’s consultant at The Christie hospital in Manchester.

“I found out about BCAN-RAY when I received a letter from my GP which briefly outlined the project and asked if I would like to participate in the study,” explains Catherine. “Although thankfully I don’t have breast cancer myself and I don’t have a history of it in my family, as a medical student I know just how important clinical trials and research are. It is an opportunity that I feel truly honoured to have been given and I hope my participation will help devise a simple test to detect the likelihood of breast cancer for young women like me in the future.”

A black-and-white photo of Catherine Craven Howe, a Christie fundraiser running a race for The Christie Charity, with several out-of-focus runners behind her.

It was around the time of her appointment that Catherine thought about fundraising, as she explains: “I decided to sign up to participate in the London Marathon and fundraise for The Christie, following my involvement with the BCAN-RAY study and talking with breast cancer consultant Dr Sacha Howell further about it. This will be my 5th marathon.

“When I finish my degree, I hope to become a doctor – it’s early days but I am thinking about ophthalmology, endocrinology or oncology. When I’m not studying, I run with a girls’ running group in Liverpool on Wednesday evenings which is lots of fun. I do most of my training locally, on canal tow paths, parks and quiet roads, usually a longer run at the weekend and a couple of shorter runs in the week.

“I have had fantastic support from friends and family and I’m planning another fundraising push this month. My goal is to raise £2,000 for The Christie Charity if I can.”

Lindsey Farthing, Sporting Events Manager at The Christie Charity commented, “We’re doubly grateful to Catherine for not only signing up to the breast cancer research project, but also for fundraising for us. Without people like her willing to take part in crucial medical research we would never see advances in cancer treatment. We wish her the best of luck in the London Marathon and will be cheering her on.”

The recruitment process for BCAN-RAY is arranged through appointments via GPs, who contact specific patients via letter to offer them the opportunity to take part in the study.

To support the work of The Christie Charity, please go to Donate today or ring 0161 446 3988.

The Christie Charity supports the work of The Christie NHS Foundation Trust providing enhanced services over and above what the NHS is able to fund. This includes money for care and treatment, research, education, and extra patient services. Gifts from the public make a huge difference to the care and treatment that The Christie is able to provide to patients and their families.

Last updated: March 2024