Cancer: the prominent doctor who has been without a trace of the disease he suffered for a year thanks to a treatment he helped develop

Cancer: the prominent doctor who has been without a trace of the disease he suffered for a year thanks to a treatment he helped develop
Cancer: the prominent doctor who has been without a trace of the disease he suffered for a year thanks to a treatment he helped develop

Image source, Melanoma Institute of Australia

Caption, His last MRI did not show any recurrence of the tumor.
Article information
  • Author, Tiffanie Turnbull
  • Role, BBC News, Sydney
  • May 14, 2024

    Updated 7 hours

A year after undergoing the world’s first treatment for glioblastoma, Australian doctor Richard Scolyer remains cancer-free.

The prestigious pathologist’s experimental therapy is based on his own pioneering melanoma research.

Scolyer’s subtype of glioblastoma is so aggressive that most patients survive less than a year.

But this Tuesday, the 57-year-old announced that his latest MRI had again shown no no tumor recurrence.

“To be honest, I was more nervous than at any previous scan,” he told the BBC.

“I’m just excited and delighted (…) I couldn’t be happier,” he added.

Scolyer is one of the country’s most respected medical minds and this year was named Australian of the Year alongside his colleague and friend Georgina Longin recognition of his life-changing work on melanoma.

Image source, Getty Images

Caption, Georgina Long and Richard Scolyer were voted Australians of the Year 2024.

As co-directors of the Melanoma Institute of Australia, over the past decade the pair’s research into immunotherapy, which uses the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells, has dramatically improved outcomes for patients with advanced melanoma around the world.

It’s that research that Long, along with a team of doctors, is using to treat Scolyer, hoping to also find a cure for his cancer.

For melanoma, Long – a renowned medical oncologist – and her team found that immunotherapy works best when using a combination of medications and when administered before any surgery to remove a tumor.

Last year, Scolyer became the first brain cancer patient to receive combination immunotherapy before surgery.

He is also the first to be given a vaccine personalized to the characteristics of his tumor, increasing the power of the drugs to detect cancer.

Enlarge the life

After a couple of tough months of treatment earlier this year (spent with seizures, liver problems and pneumonia), Scolyer says he feels healthier.

“I feel the best I have felt in many years,” he said, adding that he is back to exercising every day, which for him often means a 15-kilometer jog.

“That certainly doesn’t mean my brain cancer is cured (…) but it’s good to know that it hasn’t come back yet, so I still have more time to enjoy my life with my wife Katie and my three wonderful children,” he said.

The results so far have generated great excitement because the duo may be on the cusp of a discovery that could one day help the approximately 300,000 people diagnosed with brain cancer each year Worldwide.

Scolyer and Long have previously said the chances of a cure are “minuscule,” but they hope the experimental treatment will extend Scolyer’s life and soon translate into clinical trials for glioblastoma patients.

Image source, Melanoma Institute of Australia

Caption, Scolyer heads the Melanoma Institute Australia in Sydney.

They are currently reviewing a scientific paper detailing the results of the first weeks of Scolyer’s treatment, but Long stresses that They are still a long way from developing an approved and regulated treatment.

“We’ve generated a lot of data to then lay the foundation for the next step so we can help more people,” he said.

“We’re not there yet. What we really need to focus on is showing that this type of combined immunotherapy approach prior to surgery works in a large number of people,” he said.

Roger Stupp, the doctor after whom the current protocol for treating glioblastomas is named, told the BBC earlier this year that Scolyer’s prognosis was “bleak” and that it was too early to know if the treatment was working.

He added that while Scolyer’s previous results were “encouraging,” he wanted to see him make it to 12 months, even 18, without recurrence before getting excited.

Scoyler said that already you are proud of the data your processing has generated and grateful to his family and his medical team for supporting “this experiment.”

“I’m proud of the team I work with. I’m proud that they’re willing to take the risk of going down this path,” he said.

“It provides some hope that perhaps this is an direction worth investigating more formally.” he said she.

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