Date: 01 February 2018
A man with blood cancer has encouraged the public to take part in NHS research ahead of Sunday’s World Cancer Day after a trial drug helped him go into remission.
Alan Chant, 70, of Cookham, near Maidenhead, took part in a trial of a drug which has now been made available in routine NHS care.
He was diagnosed with myeloma and kidney cancer in 2011, when he was 63.
Myeloma is a type of cancer that causes plasma blood cells inside the bone marrow to expand, damaging the bones and affecting the production of healthy blood cells.
The father-of-one said of being treated for cancer at Wexham Park Hospital, Slough: “I felt pretty horrendous. I was in emergency treatment for a spinal tumour, so the communication about the cancer was immediate and I didn’t really get a chance to reflect on it.
“I had to have a titanium rod fitted into my spine and was hospitalised for almost five months.
“During the scans they also found cancer on my left kidney, so they had to take the kidney out, so luckily that’s gone now.
“Emotionally it was quite devastating. I was suddenly hit with an uncontrollable situation and I felt I had an uncertain future.
“I had also lost core muscles, so I couldn’t even sit up in bed. It was quite traumatic.”
Mr Chant found out about NHS research through treatment at Oxford’s Churchill Hospital, managed by Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust, and enrolled on the MUK five trial in 2013.
The aim of MUK five was to compare two different chemotherapy drug treatments for myeloma, given over an two year period, to see which is more effective at making the cancer go into remission.
Participants were randomly allocated to receive either the current treatment - cyclophosphamide, velcade and dexamethasone (CVD) - or a new treatment - carfilzomib, cyclophosphamide and dexamethasone (CCD). Mr Chant was given CCD.
He said: “The basic motivation to take part in research was to give something back. I’d received excellent care and the NHS has saved my life from myeloma and kidney cancer.
“My haematologist, Dr Ramasamy, suggested going on the trial where I might be able to take a new drug, carfilzomib, rather than the standard treatment.
“It suited me very well. It was successful on the cancer front and it also had very few side effects. So it was a good trial for me.”
Mr Chant completed the trial in 2015, and has since been in remission.
He said: “I feel good now. It was probably one of the best things I did as a patient and I have no absolutely no regrets about being on the trial.
“It helped me enormously. It’s a drug clinicians say is ‘tolerated well by patients’, whereas I’ve been on other drugs that have given me tiredness and nausea - some have very nasty side effects.”
The trial was run by the University of Leeds, with funding from the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and Myeloma UK.
Mr Chant has since used his research experience to become a patient representative on clinical research and healthcare bodies.
Dr Karthik Ramasamy, the trial’s principal investigator at OUH, said: “Carfilzomib has been demonstrated to be superior to velcade on this trial and we are now able to offer it to myeloma patients in the NHS.
“Alan was on the CCD arm of the trial and had an excellent response to treatment.
“With an increasing number of therapeutic drugs there are more options for patients. Research trials give patients options and those who fail standard therapies can have an improved chance of survival.”
Participating in health research helps develop new treatments, improve the NHS and save lives. The NHS supports research through asking patients if they wish to take part in trials and healthy people if they also wish to take part, so results can be compared to those with a medical condition.
Patients are also encouraged to ask their doctor about research opportunities and view trials seeking volunteers at The UK Clinical Trials Gateway at www.ukctg.nihr.ac.uk.