Cancer is a disease that doesn’t discriminate by age or zip code and now a groundbreaking trial is giving patients in the region access to new drugs and new hope.
A clinical trial saved the life of Pauline Thomas, a 61-year-old Victorian nurse.
The grandmother came down to 46 kilograms and was riddled with an extremely rare cancer.
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“I had a lot of liver disease, I wasn’t responding to any treatment,” Thomas said. A topical matter.
Doctors watched the gastrointestinal stromal tumor spread from her stomach to the liver for a year and Thomas assumed she was last in hospital in 2017.
But then Thomas took a chance on a treatment that held no promise.
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The Molecular Screening and Therapeutics circuit clinical trial brought Thomas back.
She is one of 240 Australian women with rare neuroendocrine, gastrointestinal and gynecological cancers on trial.
For some, treatment with immunotherapy takes precedence over traditional methods.
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Peter Hull lives with a rare prostate tumour.
“Twelve months ago I was very sick and in hospital and they were talking about me having weeks and months,” Hull said.
“Twelve months later, I feel healthy.
The 58-year-old father was diagnosed last year and had to give up his job to teach skiing to people with disabilities.
He said the chemotherapy had failed, so he agreed to take the trial.
Hull said it was a decision that paid off as he enters the second stage of the trial.
“The first CT scans came in and the specialist said some things were going down,” Hull said.
“Others aren’t, but it has an effect because without the drug nothing would diminish.”
Had the trial not been made available to Hull in Albury, he would have had to make an eight-hour round trip between his Mount Beauty home and Melbourne.
The patients in the trial are all living with cancer in remote and regional parts of Australia and would generally not have access to life-changing immunotherapy.
“Being able to have these really advanced cutting-edge clinical trials and these new treatment options and having them close to home and accessible is a huge differentiation for this trial,” said Minderoo Foundation CEO Steve Burnell.
The foundation, which is in collaboration with the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, is supporting a trial and doing its part for Australians with a rare cancer, regardless of their postcode.
Dr. Oliver Klein is leading the trial.
“These treatments can lead to long-term remissions in patients with metastatic cancers who had a life expectancy potentially measured in months, who have now been alive for years,” Klein said.
The $450,000 trial was successful for more than a third of patients.
“These drugs overactivate or reactivate the immune system to kill the cancer or at least lead to some cancer regression,” he said.
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