doomed cancer patient finally saved with immunotherapy

After receiving a personal clinical trial, Robert Glynn, suffering from bile duct cancer, is now completely cured, given only 12 months to live.

While his doctors gave him just 12 months to live, Robert Glynn, a 51-year-old English welder, is now completely cured of the bile duct cancer that was eating away at him, reports Guardian. Thanks to a clinical trial based on immunotherapy, the former patient’s tumors have been drastically reduced in size, making it possible to remove them.

It is in June 2019 that the ax falls. On the eve of his 49th birthday, Robert Glynn, originally from the suburbs of Manchester, discovers that he has cancer of the bile ducts. The man had been worried about pain in his shoulder that prevented him from sleeping.

As reported by the French National Society of Gastroenterology (SNFGE), it is a rare disease that affects “around 2000 people (…) every year in France”.

2% chance of survival after five years

It is clear that the disease multiplies the cells that line the walls of the bile ducts, “channels that carry bile in the intestine, from the liver to the gallbladder, where it is stored between meals,” the SNFGE reports.

When Robert Glynn’s cancer is discovered, the disease has already reached stage 4. It has spread to his adrenal glands and liver, and the tumors are too large to be operated on.

“I asked my doctor to be honest with me and tell me how long I had left if I continued in this condition. She told me 12 months”, recalls in the columns of Guardian Robert Glynn.

The British daily highlights that in the UK less than 2% of patients with bile duct cancer that spreads to other organs survive beyond five years.

Get rid of cancer cells yourself

However, in light of the characteristics of his disease, and in particular the high number of mutations in his tumours, Robert Glynn was finally diverted to the Christie Foundation, led by the NHS. Based in Manchester, this foundation manages one of the largest hospitals dedicated to the treatment of cancer in Europe.

Once supported, the welder receives a drug treatment specifically tailored to his profile, based on immunotherapy. Such a method is already approved for cancer of the lungs, kidneys and esophagus, but remains at the clinical trial stage for cancer of the biliary tract.

As Inserm reports, cancer immunotherapy is based on a different logic than more traditional chemotherapy. Instead of attacking cancer cells directly, the treatment will teach the body to get rid of them on its own.

“Immunotherapy is a therapeutic approach that acts on a patient’s immune system to fight their disease. In the case of cancer, it does not attack the tumor directly, but stimulates the immune cells involved in its recognition and its destruction”, emphasizes Inserm.

In particular, immunotherapy aims to “wake up” the immune system, while tumors can have the effect of putting T lymphocytes to sleep, killer cells essential in the immune response to viruses and cancers.

A miracle”

In Robert Glynn, this clinical trial proved particularly effective. Immunotherapy, received as an infusion and combined with traditional chemotherapy, has drastically reduced the size of his tumors. The one on his liver went from 12 to 2.6 cm, and the one on his adrenal glands from 7 to 4.1 cm. Paving the way for their surgical removal.

During the operation, which took place in April last year, the surgeons found no active cancer cells. They tested all the tumors twice because they couldn’t believe it,” says the English patient. Only dead tissue was found by the doctors.

“One of the nurses said it was a miracle. I don’t like that word, I’m just a regular guy, but it’s certainly remarkable. Without the progress, I won’t be here,” said Robert. Glynn.

Other patients in treatment

Since then, the welder has not required further treatment, and his CT scan three months after the operation indicates that he is fully recovered. Since then, he made the decision to adopt a healthy diet and lost 31 kg. Biliary tract cancer may be associated with obesity. “It was the kick in the ass I needed to change my life,” he says.

The treatment Robert received, whose name cannot yet be revealed because it is still in clinical trials, is currently being given to other patients with the same type of aggressive cancer that almost took the welder’s life.

But as Juan Valle, an oncologist at the Manchester hospital where the clinical trial took place, pointed out: “Most patients with this diagnosis don’t have as many mutations in their cancer cells, so the treatment won’t be as effective, but it underlines the importance of personalized medicine.” However, the specialist does not want to be pessimistic and calls for expanding the number of patients treated with the method.

“This could lead to a change in the way we treat patients like Robert in the future,” hopes Juan Valle.

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