‘Warrior woman‘ cop calls on Kiwis to help raise $130K for cancer treatment

A West Auckland detective and mum battling incurable cancer is trying to raise $130,000 for treatment that may extend her life.

Detective Sarah Cato, 35, was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago.

After undergoing a mastectomy she found out that the cancer had spread throughout her body and was metastatic, or incurable.

The five-year survival rate for metastatic breast cancer is about 22 per cent.


Since her diagnosis Cato has undergone a gruelling regime of chemotherapy and radiation – taking almost no time of work as she fights against family violence, child abuse and investigates high profile homicides – and has been taking Herceptin to slow further cancer growth.

“I‘ve been battling pretty serious cancer for the last four years,” Cato said.

“I‘ve been doing that very well but I need to come up with a plan B.”

Plan B is a drug called Perjeta (also known as Pertuzumab) which, used in conjunction with Herceptin, has been shown to reduce patients risk of cancer worsening by 38 per cent.

Detective Sarah Cato has been battling breast cancer for the four years. NZ Herald photograph by Michael Craig facebook twitter email linkedin google-plus whatsapp pinterest reddit

Pharmac started funding Perjeta – but only for patients who have not been treated with Herceptin or chemo.

That means about 160 people including Cato are not eligible for the treatment – unless they fund it themselves.

“It‘s going to cost me in excess of about $130,000,” Cato said.

“The drug itself is capped at about $80,000, however there‘s ongoing infusion costs which are between $3000 to $5000 a month which is just unattainable for me.”

The mum-of-one wants as much time as possible with her family and to help victims of crime through her job, and is now calling on Kiwis to help her to raise the funds for the treatment.

Cato and her Waitemata Police colleagues are planning a fundraiser function later this year with a silent auction.

They are calling on donations of auction items and are looking for offers of a venue, food and beverages, music and entertainment.

Cato said asking for help was awkward, but she was desperate to stay alive, firstly for her daughter but also to keep supporting and working for her family and community.

“I hate having to ask for money, I‘m a mum, a cop – I‘m the protector usually,” she said.

“But I need this.

“It would benefit me greatly… It means longevity, it could add potentially a couple of years onto my life.

A fundraising page will also be set up online.

“I need to keep living,” Cato said.

“I‘ve got a lot more to achieve in my life – and I‘m a mum, I need to be alive for my daughter.”

Detective Sarah Cato is now trying to raise $130,000 to fund a potentially life lengthening cancer drug. NZ Herald photograph by Michael Craig facebook twitter email linkedin google-plus whatsapp pinterest reddit

Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition chair Libby Burgess said it was “tragic” that Cato and the other 159 other patients had been denied access to Perjeta by Pharmac.

“This is particularly cruel… It would give them more time and better quality time,” she said.

“Women like (Cato), it‘s really obvious the value they bring to the community.

“They are really valued and loved members, why wouldn‘t we support such a warrior woman?”

Pharmac‘s director of operations Lisa Williams said Perjeta was only registered by Medsafe for use in patients that have not received prior treatment with Herceptin or chemotherapy.

In February 2017 it sought “expert clinical advice” from its Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee on whether other patients could use the drug.

“PTAC deferred making a recommendation, noting that the available evidence wasn‘t strong enough, or of a high enough quality, to support the use of pertuzumab for people who had already had treatment,” said Williams.


If you can help Detective Sarah Cato with her fundraising function by donating a venue, food, beverages, entertainment or silent auction items OR if you want to donate money to help her reach her goal of $130,000 for the life-lengthening drug perjeta, email anna.leask.co.nz for details.

To learn more about breast cancer, treatment and support visit the Breast Cancer Aotearoa Coalition website by .