Man with terminal cancer cured of disease in UK drug trial

A man said he had less than 12 months to live is now cancer-free thanks to a British trial of a new drug regimen.

Robert Glynn, 51, a welder from Worsley in Greater Manchester, said he ‘wouldn’t be here’ if it weren’t for the startling results of the trial led by Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester.

Mr Glynn was diagnosed with fatal bile duct cancer after suffering severe pain in his shoulder which left him unable to sleep.

He visited his GP and had a series of scans and blood tests, but his cancer was only discovered by accident when he had a gallbladder infection.

The day before his 49th birthday in August 2020 at the height of the Covid pandemic, Mr Glynn was broken the devastating news that he had intrahepatic bile duct cancer (cancer that forms in the bile ducts within the liver) .

Also known as biliary tract cancer, this is a rare form of the disease with few treatment options.

Only around 1,000 people in the UK are diagnosed each year, and just 5% of people live for five years or more after being diagnosed.

Robert and his partner Simone (The Christie NHS Foundation/PA)

Mr Glynn was told his cancer was in an advanced stage and had spread to his adrenal gland.

He was referred to Christie’s where experts offered him the opportunity to participate in an immunotherapy clinical trial.

Before starting the trial, Mr Glynn’s tumor was analyzed to check for any genetic alterations in his tumour.

The result showed that the tumor had a high mutation burden (a large number of genetic mutations in the cells), suggesting that it could potentially have a good response to treatment.

Mr Glynn has been started on an immunotherapy drug that has already been approved for use in other types of cancer, including lung, kidney and oesophageal cancer.

The treatment, which is given by drip and helps a person’s immune system fight the cancer, was combined with standard chemotherapy.

The drug cannot be named due to the experimental nature of this study for bile duct cancer.

To his surprise, Mr Glynn, who loves Manchester United, snooker, golf and fishing, has seen his tumors shrink during treatment.

The liver tumor decreased from 12cm to 2.6cm, while the adrenal gland tumor shrank from 7cm to 4.1cm.

This meant Mr Glynn was able to have surgery in April to have his tumors removed.

The surgeons found only dead tissue, which meant the treatment had killed all the cancer cells.

In comments made exclusively to the PA news agency, Glynn said: “I wouldn’t be here today without the trial.

“When I was given the chance to take part in the research, I jumped at the chance.

“Do whatever you can to prolong your life.

“I feel very lucky because I had cancer for two years and had no idea.

“So getting the whole thing clear was overwhelming.

“In a strange way, being diagnosed has changed my life.

“With my partner, Simone, we go out into nature and walk a lot. When something like this happens you realize that life is for living.

Since his surgery, Mr Glynn has not needed treatment and his quarterly scans show he has recovered from the cancer.

Robert Glynn's disease

Robert Glynn (The Christie NHS Foundation/PA)

Additional studies are now underway with more patients with the hope of changing biliary tract cancer treatment.

In an effort to live a healthier life, Mr. Glynn has also changed his diet completely, losing several stone after tipping the scales at 16.

“I cut out all processed foods, refined sugar, dairy products and milk and now I have a smoothie every day and lots of organic fruits and vegetables and I make everything from scratch,” she said.

“I managed to drop 5th which was a big step for me.

“I realized that you can’t just rely on doctors to help you.

“You have to help yourself too.

“It is also important to stay positive and not give up.

“It’s never over until it’s over.”

The clinical trial was led by Professor Juan Valle, Consultant Oncologist at Christie’s and a world-leading expert in biliary tract cancer.

He said: “Robert has done very well with this combination due to his tumor having a high mutation load or a large number of genetic mutations.

“Most patients with this diagnosis don’t have as many mutations in their cancer cells, so treatment won’t be as effective, but it highlights the importance of personalized medicine.

“The results of this research and another larger study are eagerly awaited by colleagues around the world as they could lead to a change in the way we treat patients like Robert in the future.”

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