Cancer breakthrough as doctor with disease most die of in a year now cured

Cancer breakthrough as doctor with disease most die of in a year now cured

An esteemed doctor has defied the odds by surviving an aggressive form of cancer following world-first treatment. Australian pathologist Richard Scolyer was “thrilled” when a latest scan showed he remained cancer-free a year on from diagnosis.

Professor Scolyer was told he had glioblastoma IDH wild-type last year – a particularly intrusive type of brain tumour.

Most patients with the same diagnosis usually survive less than a year.

But he underwent experimental therapy based on his own pioneering research on skin cancer.

This week the 57-year-old announced his latest MRI scan had again showed no recurrence of the tumour.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: “To be honest, I was more nervous than I have been for any previous scan. I’m just thrilled and delighted… couldn’t be happier.”

Dad-of-three Prof Scolyer was this year named Australian of the Year alongside his colleague and co-director at the Melanoma Institute Australia, Prof Georgina Long, for their life-changing work on melanoma.

Over the past 10 years their research on immunotherapy, which uses the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells, has significantly improved outcomes for advanced melanoma patients globally.

Using this treatment half are now essentially cured, up from less than 10 percent.

Prof Long, alongside a team of doctors, then applied this research to treat Prof Scolyer – with the hope of finding a cure for his type of cancer as well.

How did the treatment work?

Prof Long’s team had previously established that immunotherapy is most successful when a combination of drugs is used, prior to any surgery to remove a tumour.

Based on these findings, Prof Scolyer became the first even brain tumour patient to have combination, pre-surgery immunotherapy.

He was also the first to be given a vaccine personalised to his tumour’s characteristics, in order to boost the cancer-detecting powers of the drugs.

The first couple of months of his treatment proved tough, with Prof Scolyer experiencing epileptic seizures, liver issues and pneumonia.

But he now says he is feeling healthier and is even back to exercising daily, which includes a 15km job.

“I’m the best I have felt for yonks,” he said. “It certainly doesn’t mean that my brain cancer is cured… but it’s just nice to know that it hasn’t come back yet, so I’ve still got some more time to enjoy my life with my wife Katie and my three wonderful kids.”

This has sparked a huge amount of excitement in the scientific community, with hopes the treatment could result in a breakthrough cure for brain tumours – which kill around 250,000 people worldwide every year.

Previously, Prof Scolyer and Prof Long said the odds of a cure are “minuscule”.

However, the experimental treatment looks like it will prolong Prof Scolyer’s life and is set to undergo clinical trials for glioblastoma patients.

They also currently have a scientific paper under review, which details results from the first weeks of Prof Scolyer’s treatment.

“We’ve generated a whole heap of data, to then make a foundation for that next step, so that we can help more people,” Prof Long added.

“We’re not there yet. What we have to really focus on is showing that this pre-surgery, combination immunotherapy type of approach works in a large number of people.”

Prof Scoyler commented that he’s already proud of the data his treatment has generated and grateful to his family and his medical team for supporting “this experiment”.

He said: “I feel proud of the team that I work with. I feel proud that they’re willing to take the risk in going down this path.”

“[It] provides some hope that maybe this is a direction that’s worth investigating more formally.”

There are two main types of brain tumours – low grade (benign) and high grade (malignant).

Low grade tumours grow slowly and are less likely to return after treatment.

In comparison, high grade tumours either start in the brain (primary tumours) or spread into the brain from elsewhere (secondary tumours), and they’re more likely to grow back after treatment.

According to the NHS, common symptoms of a brain tumour include:

  • Headaches
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Persistently feeling sick (nausea), being sick (vomiting) and drowsiness
  • Mental or behavioural changes, such as memory problems or changes in personality
  • Progressive weakness or paralysis on one side of the body
  • Vision or speech problems.

If you experience any unexplained or ongoing symptoms you should speak to your GP.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *