A Good News Cancer Story


I had the great good fortune to attend (virtually) the Alberta Cancer Foundation‘s Clinical Trials Day crowdcast yesterday from the Cross Cancer Institute.  It was truly thrilling…and you can watch it here if you are interested.  I watched Session 2 from the CCI.

Charismatic nerd and Rockstar in his own right Dr. John Mackey kicked off the session before heading off to the clinic, introducing Research Rockstar Dr. John Walker.  I’d heard Dr. Walker speak on another occasion…introducing the story of how the CCI had initiated clinical trials of Combined Nivolumab and Ipilimumab or Monotherapy in Previously Untreated Melanoma.  In 2010, before this novel immunotherapy combination had been discovered, the survival rate for late stage melanoma was less than 10%.  Now the 5-year survival for Melanoma is over 50%.   Dr. Walker was joined by Cam Lane that day…a patient whose life was saved by the clinical trial and who rode with us on Team Alberta Cancer Foundation.

Yesterday John introduced Chris Brochu…another patient who benefited from the trial and whose life was saved.  Chris shared the story of how he had a melanoma removed in 2009 in BC and was treated with Chemotherapy for a recurrence in 2015.  When the Chemotherapy proved ineffective he was out of options locally and given 4 weeks to live.

Luckily his doctors recommended that he join the clinical trial at the Cross Cancer Institute.  Chris came to Edmonton, rented a house, and joined the immunotherapy clinical trial.  At age 33 Chris’ life was saved.

This may be the most poignant modern demonstration of the power of cancer research and the private donors who fund it that I have ever heard.

Immunotherapy is exciting because it works by boosting the body’s natural defenses to fight cancer, rather than introducing a poison to try and kill it.  Dr. Walker shared that Dr. Michael Chu is working to bring even more exciting clinical trials in cellular therapy to the Cross.  Cellular therapies are manufactured by collecting a specific set of cells from the blood, modifying them to produce a more vigorous attack on a patient’s cancer cells, and then re-injecting them into the patient.

After the session I increased my fundraising target for my Give’r Project to $10,000…the cost to enroll one patient in a clinical trial.  Better yet, every dollar we raise can be leveraged to receive 5 or more dollars from pharmaceutical companies and other granting agencies.  Hope you’ll join me!