In November 2016, a fit, bright and full of aspirations teenager was struck with disbelief when his doctor told him he had osteosarcoma in his right leg.
“In a way, I felt denial. I couldn’t believe it was happening to me,” said Tom.
He would go on to receive nine months of intensive chemotherapy followed by a major surgery replacing his knee joint with a metal prosthetic. Tom initially responded well to the chemotherapy and the prognosis was looking positive. However, 12 months on a regular scan showed a spot in his lung. Tom’s cancer had spread.
“Once again, I felt disbelief, I had a good reaction to the chemo. After going through such intensive treatment the year before, while simultaneously completing year 12 only to be told the cancer was back was a real kick in the guts.”
It was at that point Tom and his family began to question what the next steps would look like. His mother, Leanne began her own research and came upon immunotherapy.
“We were in a sense getting desperate. I was looking at immunotherapy trials in the United States and was even thinking about getting him treated overseas. Then, almost out of the blue, Tom’s medical oncologist suggested an immunotherapy clinical trial,” said Leanne.
The clinical trial involves the administration of two immunotherapy medications, simultaneously. These drugs are designed to prompt the immune system to fight cancer cells. Tom was told he was a good candidate for the trial, especially as the legion on his lung was quite small. Currently there are no proven immunotherapy drugs for osteosarcoma, but this trial felt like a positive step forward for the Hardyman family.
“I was hopeful and excited. It was great knowing there was something that could be done rather than just sitting around waiting and watching the cancer grow, not knowing what to do. It was good knowing there were people out there who were trying to come up with a treatment that could hopefully cure me, and others like me in the future,” said Tom.
The trial involves Tom being treated fortnightly with twohours of post monitoring. It’s less intense and hasn’t come with as many side effects as his past treatment. This has also meant he has been able to spend more time with his friends and concentrate on study. Through the bad days and the endless hospital walls, Tom still managed to complete grade 12 with flying colours and received an academic scholarship in engineering at QUT. His goal is to graduate university and be an engineer helping to design Formula 1 race cars.