Olivia Newton-John: Grease star’s battle with breast cancer, campaign work and foundation explained

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The actress established the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund

Olivia Newton-John has died aged 73, “passing away peacefully” at her ranch in Southern California surrounded by loved ones, her family confirmed.

Newton-John was best known for her roles in the films Grease and Xanadu, as well as her dedication to her role as a cancer campaigner.

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Olivia Newton-John was first diagnosed with cancer in 1992 and went on to become a leading advocate for cancer research (Photo: Cole Bennetts/Getty Images)Olivia Newton-John was first diagnosed with cancer in 1992 and went on to become a leading advocate for cancer research (Photo: Cole Bennetts/Getty Images)
Olivia Newton-John was first diagnosed with cancer in 1992 and went on to become a leading advocate for cancer research (Photo: Cole Bennetts/Getty Images) | Cole Bennetts/Getty Images

Her husband, John Easterling, wrote on social media: "Olivia has been a symbol of triumphs and hope for over 30 years sharing her journey with breast cancer".

"Her healing inspiration and pioneering experience with plant medicine continues with the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, dedicated to researching plant medicine and cancer,” he added.

But what was Olivia Newton-John’s journey with breast cancer and what is the Olivia Newton-John foundation?

Here’s what you need to know.

What work did Olivia Newton-John do as a cancer campaigner?

Newton-John was first diagnosed with cancer in 1992 and went on to become a leading advocate for cancer research.

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The actress established the Olivia Newton-John Foundation Fund, an independent charity sponsoring global research into plant medicine for cancer.

The foundation’s website said: “These investments in new scientific research will educate patients and their caregivers about kinder options for treating cancer.”

The charity has now raised millions of pounds to support research.

In 2017, Newton-John revealed that the breast cancer she had first suffered in 1992 had returned and had spread to her spine.

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She also revealed she’d had a second cancer diagnosis in 2013, but had decided to keep it quiet.

She also called upon her native Australia to adopt the laws of the US state of California, where she then lived, to allow the medicinal use of marijuana.

In a statement, the hospital that runs the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness and Research Centre in Melbourne - which was opened after the star’s campaigning - said she "encouraged, inspired and supported" staff and patients everyday.

The Centre added: "We are incredibly grateful for the special relationship we had with Olivia for many years. Her generous support and gift provided hope and changed the lives of thousands of cancer patients... She was the light at the end of the tunnel for many, many people."

Newton-John’s campaigning efforts were recognised by Queen Elizabeth, who honoured her with a damehood in 2020 New Year’s Honours list.

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