Vital work of expanding charity inspired by Epworth’s Anna Verrico

Team Verrico
Team Verrico

Three years ago this month, hundreds of people turned out to mourn the death of a young mother of two from Epworth.

Thirty-six year old Anna Verrico left behind her the legacy of charity Team Verrico, that is doing incredible work, helping in the fight against cancer.

Following the loss of Anna, husband Paul noted how ‘few Isle residents have attracted such strength of feeling in so short a time’. Anna demonstrated grit in the face of adversity, was devoted to her family, and faced her enemy mostly without pain medication, to keep her mind alert for her babies. She was, said Paul, “that rare thing, a good woman of strong conviction, beautiful in spirit as well as body”.

He added: “Anna’s firm belief, despite overwhelming contrary opinion, was that metastatic, aggressive triple negative breast cancer was a cursed inconvenience in that it reduced her mobility, but it was not going to beat her. “Her family and friends are resolved that Anna did not lose her fight with the disease; she will serve as the inspiration to find a solution to it.”

Among those already supported by Team Verrico is Jon from Doncaster, a prison warden with two young children. He was diagnosed with pleomorphic rabomysarcoma in January 2015. For Jon, the charity provided access to medical expertise, funded genetic testing, provided emotional support and paid for transport to see London consultants. After a period of remission, Jon’s cancer returned and Team Verrico was there to assist with further medical intervention.

Jo is an Epworth mum with a rare breast cancer. The charity has supported Jo by funding genetic testing with further medical assistance.

Stef is another Epworth mum diagnosed with breast cancer. Team Verrico arranged for Stef to meet the world’s leading breast cancer oncologist to explain treatment options and guide her decision-making alongside current research.

At the University of Brighton, the project Team Verrico supports will investigate links between stress reduction therapies and the effectiveness of chemotherapeutic drugs commonly used to treat Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC). The goal is to enable medical professionals to use a patient’s genetic make-up to predict the likely effectiveness of stress reduction therapies, so enhancing the patient’s treatment and survival prospects.

At Addenbrooks Hospital Team Verrico has donated towards a new, personalised breast cancer programme; they hope to recruit 2,000 women over a few years and personalise their care according to genetics deep within their tumours.

A ‘real life’ patient diagnosed at 27 with the same cancer that killed Anna, started chemotherapy on one set of drugs. Her tumour grew but when her profiled tumour results came in her drugs were changed and the tumour had shrunk to 10 per cent of the size it had been.

At Sheffield University, Team Verrico supports a project against triple negative breast cancer. Sufferers have very limited treatment options and often rely heavily on chemotherapy. Although effective initially, chemo. rarely eradicates the cancer completely, and tumours often return after treatment finishes.

The university demonstrated recently, using an experimental model of TNBC, that after chemotherapy, white blood cells called macrophages gather around blood vessels in tumours. These cells then stimulate tumour repair and regrowth. When the white blood cells were blocked, tumour regrowth after chemotherapy was markedly reduced.

With Team Verrico support, the team is now looking inside human TNBCs to see if this process is mirrored. If so, it will seek to conduct a clinical trial to target these cells in women with TNBC when they undergo chemotherapy, in the hope of extending their ‘relapse-free survival’.

Paul said: “Did Anna ‘lose’ when she died? Quite clearly not.

“Her name and spirit serve as a rallying call for good people to stand together and use the vehicle of her charity as a vector to assist others directly or through research to achieve the aim of ‘more tomorrows’.

July 2014: Team Verrico launch ball with Hollywood actor Hugo Speer

August 2014: Charity registration received from the UK Charity Commission

September 2014: Metres to Miles organise inaugural, now annual, Anna Verrico half marathon

October 2014: Professor Malcolm Reed, surgeon with 200 plus publications, sits on CRUK committees, joins as Chief Medical Advisor

April 2015: Fleur Binnington launches new counselling service to help those affected by cancer

May 2015: Amelia Redding, Brand Director at Grey UK joins as Head of Marketing

June 2015: Charity Chair Paul Verrico appears on Jeremy Vine show

July 2015: Team Verrico is voted Sainsbury’s Scunthorpe charity of the year

August 2015: Amelia appears on Good Morning Britain

April 2016: Scunny Bunny Glyn Sparks runs London marathon, raises over £10,000

September 2016: Family friend Naomi Watkins takes over as new head of counselling;

October 2016: Team Verrico link with charity Pseudomyxoma Survivor to give counselling and second opinions