Saturday 21 September 2019

Wexford man says pioneering drugs beating his cancer

Cancer breakthrough.
Cancer breakthrough.

David Tucker

a WEXFORD man who took part in pioneering clinical trials of new cancer drugs says he has been given a second lease of life.

The man, from Our Lady's Island, says that since taking the drugs, tumours in his liver have disappeared, while a malignant tumour in his neck is dormant and he is firmly on the road to recovery.

Last week, the results of the new cancer drugs trials were hailed as spectacular, with one expert claiming the potential for a cure for the disease is 'definitely there'.

Immunotherapy, which uses the body's immune system to attack cancerous cells, proved so effective that in one trial, more than half of patients with advanced melanoma saw tumours shrink or brought under control, according to researchers.

An international trial involving 945 patients with advanced melanoma, Peter one of 24 in Ireland, saw them treated with two drugs - ipilimumab and nivolumab.

Aged 37, the Wexford man was first diagnosed with melanoma three years ago and says he had no doubt that the immunotherapy 'had put the brakes on it'.

'I feel I have a chance now,' he told this newspaper. Married with children, he said the last few years had been very difficult.

'It's been a tough time for us all. If I hadn't been chosen for the trial.. if this had been five or six years ago, I may not have been here now,' said the man, who asked not to be identified.

The man said he had had tumours surgically removed from his neck and follow-up chemotherapy, but the cancer returned and spread until he took the new drugs.

'Something happened last year and the tumour in my liver disappeared and it can only be down to the drugs,' he said.

His last scan was in March and he has another due in September.

Researchers carrying out the trials found the treatments stopped cancer advancing for almost a year in 58 per cent of cases, with tumours stable or shrinking for an average of 11.5 months.

The trials, a number of which were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's annual conference in Chicago last week, could herald a 'new era' for cancer treatments, with Professor Roy Herbst, chief of medical oncology at Yale Cancer Centre, saying that immunotherapy could replace chemotherapy as the standard cancer treatment within the next five years.

Now well into recovery, the Wexford man has been unable to work for the past three years, but he is confident that he will be able to return to his job in Wexford town in the near future.

'I was just lucky I was taken on for the trial. It was the toss of the coin.'

Wexford People

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