Two times lucky

For every haematologist at Epworth HealthCare requesting genomic tests for their cancer patients is standard of care.  The tests are carried out at the Wilson Centre for Blood Cancer Genomics, established in 2017 and housed at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.  The results of the genomic tests guide clinicians in choosing the most effective treatment for their cancer patients.  For Shane, genomic testing and the treatment journey that followed saved his life not once, but twice.

In 2021, Shane was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma at Epworth and commenced chemotherapy treatment immediately.  At the time of his diagnosis a tissue biopsy was taken and sent to the Wilson Centre to determine the genomic make-up of his cancer. Shane had only received one or two rounds of chemotherapy and was not responding when he was referred to Dr Costas Yannakou, clinical haematologist at Epworth.  Shane was extremely unwell, and his health was deteriorating rapidly.  When the results of Shane’s genomic test came through, it indicated that his lymphoma cells carried the TP53 mutation.  This mutation renders chemotherapy ineffective in eradicating mantle cell lymphoma cells.  Whilst Shane was incredibly unlucky to have mantle cell lymphoma with the TP53 mutation, he was incredibly lucky to be under the care of Dr Yannakou and to have received a genomic test.  Shane’s mutation and clinical situation led to him receiving an immunotherapy treatment as part of a clinical trial Dr Yannakou was conducting at Epworth.

Shane’s luck did not stop there.  PET scans are used at Epworth to monitor disease progression and Shane’s follow up scan showed that he had a localised oesophageal cancer, completely unrelated to his lymphoma.  The oesophageal cancer would have remained undetected if it were not for the lymphoma treatment journey he underwent.   Instead, the cancer was captured early and successfully removed.

Shane is currently in remission from mantle cell lymphoma and oesophageal cancer because of the holistic and cutting-edge care he received at Epworth. He also has monitoring of his circulating tumour DNA to detect any relapse early. The genomic test provided the treatment road map and the clinical trial was the vehicle he needed to receive a new immunotherapy treatment for mantle cell lymphoma.  Ten years ago, Shane’s story would have had a very different ending.  The advances made in diagnostics through genomic testing allow doctors to treat patients with more precision.  These advances have come about through research, invariably funded by people such as you.

The Wilson Centre for Blood Cancer Genomics is funded by the philanthropic generosity of the Wilson Family.  Over the last 4 years the Wilson Family has donated more than $9million to Snowdome to fund genomic testing and research at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre.  As a family they have already saved countless lives through their support, and the knowledge gained through research will continue to save many more lives in the future.