One of Britain’s top young scientists has died aged just 29 from a rare form of heart cancer originally diagnosed as a pulled muscle.
Kirsty Smitten was diagnosed with cardiac angiosarcoma in November last year and given just months to live. The cancer is so rare her surgeon had never seen it before, and only two people a year in the UK receive a diagnosis.
She died in hospital with her family beside her on Wednesday, having spent the past seven weeks in Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
‘Kirsty fought to the very end but this was such an aggressive cancer she couldn’t beat it,’ said her sister-in-law Sukhi Smitten, who is married to Kirsty’s older brother Matt.
Speaking to MailOnline, she added: ‘She kept saying how much she had to live for – her brother, Dan, is getting married in November and Matt and I are expecting a baby in February. She would have been the most wonderful auntie. We’re all heartbroken.’
Named a Forbes 30 under 30 scientist, Kirsty was poised to potentially save millions of lives having developed two new antibiotics, helping fight the global threat of drug resistance. In February she was also crowned FSB’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
She set up a company, MetalloBio, to develop the drugs for commercial use, and continued her vital work during chemotherapy.
Kirsty, from Solihull, West Midlands, first attended hospital last November, where doctors thought she’d just pulled a muscle. At the time she was playing football and hockey daily.
However, she insisted something was wrong and waited 11 hours before a CT scan revealed a cancerous tumour in her right atrium, one of the heart’s two smaller, upper chambers.
The diagnosis was terminal, and she was given just months to live.
Speaking to MailOnline in March, Kirsty said:
‘To get any kind of growth in your heart is very rare because your heart cells don’t replicate after a certain age.
‘I work in med-tech, and no one wants to fund something that only one person in 36 million is going to use, so there are no new developments.’
She added that the diagnosis had shed new light on her own work.
‘I now see how important my work is, because if I get an infection I have about an hour to get IV antibiotics before it becomes fatal – with chemo, I don’t have an immune system at the moment.
‘If we get the new drugs on the market it will potentially save tens of millions of lives.
‘A new class of antibiotics hasn’t reached clinics in over 30 years, and by 2050 antibiotic microbial resistance is expected to kill 10 million people, which is a death every three seconds per year. We would be able to prevent that.’
Kirsty was also dealing with the loss of her father, Kevin, after the seemingly healthy 61-year-old died from a heart attack in October last year.
The family is keen her legacy continues after her death, and work continues on the new class of antibiotics.
Source: Metro UK