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Patient stories / 30 Jul, 2019

Immunotherapy trial gives hope to rare cancer patient

Icon Writers

Cancer research an exciting opportunity for metastatic cancer patient

Jim Millar was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2013. While away on holidays he noticed a lump in his elbow; this would begin his long journey of numerous rounds of chemotherapy and endless tests.

After several months of numerous tests and consultations with several specialists, Jim was eventually diagnosed with a rare form of sarcoma – metastatic rhabdosarcoma, a sarcoma usually only seen in children and young adults. After an operation to remove the cancer, followed by a course of radiation therapy and 18 weeks of chemotherapy at Icon Wesley, Jim was given the all clear and returned to work in January 2014.

Two years later, after a work trip to Perth, his regular scans picked up blood clots in his leg and lungs. Followed shortly by severe back pain ending in the emergency department, Jim’s clots were found to be cancerous, with cancer spreading to his spine. After receiving more chemotherapy and radiation therapy, Jim decided to slow down and semi-retire to Cairns at the end of 2016.

“It’s always hard not knowing whether it was going to return. Then when it does you do think ‘bugger it!’ and ‘ah well, let’s get on with the treatment!’,” Jim said.

Jim continued to work on a casual consultancy basis, however in early 2018 the cancer returned in his arm and had to be surgically removed. Later in 2018 further legions were discovered in Jim’s lung and liver which were treated with yet more chemotherapy, however tests began to see little success in the chemotherapy, only partially slowing down the tumour growth. At that point his Haematologist referred him to the Icon South Brisbane Phase I clinic where he was recruited to an immunotherapy trial. For Jim, being able to have this opportunity has been a blessing.

Immunotherapy uses your immune system to slow the growth of cancer cells and destroy existing cancer cells. The trial Jim is on involves immunotherapy treatments over three week cycles, receiving treatment once every three weeks where trial patients will be monitored progressively across each treatment.

While there is more and more information and support for patients with cancer, it can often be more difficult to receive help and practical information for rare cancers. For many, this unknown can add to the stress of their cancer diagnosis. However, Jim continues to remain positive and have control of his treatment alongside his doctors.

“What you don’t know doesn’t harm you. That’s my way of dealing with having a rare cancer. I trust my doctors are doing the best they can for me. Any cancer is scary, so having a rare cancer is no scarier. It’s best to get on with life and have fun. I don’t want to sit and worry about things I can’t change.”

Jim continues to have fun with his loving wife, one son, two daughters and nine grandchildren, while enjoying his tropical lifestyle in sunny Far North Queensland. His family owns a boat in Cairns, and are often out fishing, diving and tripping on the Great Barrier Reef. He is one of thousands who are finding hope in clinical trials.

“I would urge other patients to go for it if a clinical trial is presented to them. Trials aren’t just messing around, they represent the culmination of years of serious and detailed research using sophisticated, advanced medicines and technologies to find cures for the most serious and insidious of diseases. If there is any chance it’s going to help, take it.”

Icon continues to invest in research and clinical trials, bringing the latest in treatments and techniques to more people. For more information on Icon’s current clinical trials click here.

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