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Clinical Trials mean cancer is no longer a death sentence

20 May 2022

International Clinical Trials Day (20 May) honours the incredibly hardworking professionals in our hospitals who are improving the quality of life for many patients.

One of these patients is Taylor Kirkwood, who received a shock diagnosis of stage 4 bowel cancer at 27 years-of-age and a 15-month journey of surgery, chemotherapy and the constant threat of the cancer returning.

And return it did. Taylor’s cancer had returned and, in her words, she said it was ‘everywhere’.

A planned wedding turned into a quick elopement in 2020 before she commenced the next tier of cancer therapeutics, Immunotherapy, which uses the body’s own immune system to target and attack cancer cells.

Consultant Medical Oncologist at Princess Alexandra Hospital, Dr Rahul Ladwa, was able to include Taylor in a Stage 3B trial using drugs that are traditionally used to treat advanced stage metastatic melanoma for what was originally malignant adenocarcinoma in her case.

“The trial uses her own immune system to really just target those cells and eliminate them as it would with an infection,” Dr Ladwa said.

The trial is proving to be an enduring success for Taylor with her cancer having regressed 65 per cent to the point Dr Ladwa considers it to be stable. 

“We are nearly at two years and it has had this remarkable durable effect.”

It is trials like this, and so many others conducted at Princess Alexandra Hospital, that are paving the way for new treatments, more successful treatments for both rare and common cancers, as well as a trove of clinical treatments in other specialties that will become new protocols for so many patients in the near future.

Dr Ladwa’s trial, funded by the PA Research Foundation, is exploring why 50 per cent of squamous cell carcinomas of the skin patients respond to immunotherapy in the hope more cancer patients can potentially benefit and Taylor’s case is proving the benefits can be applied more broadly.

“The data we get from Taylor’s involvement in the clinical trial will guide a whole new generation of research going forward,” Dr Ladwa said.

Last updated 20 May 2022
Last reviewed 20 May 2022

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