On November 26th, 2021, Snowdome Foundation held the Western Australian (WA) educational event Blood Sweat and Tears of Joy. It was very pleasing to hear about the clinical research talent and depth of clinical trials now on offer in WA. Most of all we were filled with hope and inspiration from the incredible patient stories.
Prof Chan Cheah highlighted that blood cancer could be the leading cause of life lost to cancer by 2030. The only way we can turn those statistics around is by finding new treatments that change the incurable into the chronic or even better, a cure.
In Melbourne when a patient exhausts all treatment options there are often clinical trials available to provide access to new treatments. Sadly, this was not the case in WA and in Perth in 2015, there was only one blood cancer trial on offer. Blood Cancer Research Western Australia (BCRWA) was born to provide new treatment options and opportunities to extend life for blood cancer patients in WA. Today, there are on average 11 clinical trials per year in WA, which translates to 267 people who have been offered a chance to extend their life and to find a treatment that may help destroy their cancer.
To understand the true value of clinical trials, Blood Sweat and Tears of Joy had two patients tell their remarkable story of survival.
Michelle Stephenson just turned 66, however six months ago she did not expect to live long enough to make her birthday. Michelle was set to have a knee operation when her blood test revealed she had acute myeloid leukaemia (AML). Michelle had not been sick, so her diagnosis was sudden and came as a complete shock. Michelle was transferred to a city hospital to receive chemotherapy. She had watched her husband go through the same treatment and knew how hard chemo can be, but she was told without it she would only have two to four weeks left to live. After enduring chemotherapy Michelle was heartbroken to learn that her AML had returned. All that chemotherapy for nothing and now her only hope was a clinical trial as there were no other treatment options available.
Michelle was fortunate to enrol in a trial for a treatment that targets the specific mutation she carries. Her cancer went into remission after the first round of treatment and best of all, her treatment can be taken at home and allows her to have a good quality of life. Michelle said, “The trial has saved my life, my family, and my children, the experience has been amazing and the care incredible. I am extremely grateful.”
In early 2018, Susan Leeming was diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma (MCL). Like most MCL patients she received chemotherapy. When her cancer returned Susan was advised that there were no other treatment options for MCL however Prof Cheah had other ideas. Chan enrolled Susan in a CAR T-cell therapy trial in July 2020. This revolutionary treatment has destroyed Susan’s cancer and she feels indebted to Chan who gave her the opportunity to be the first patient to receive CAR T-cell therapy for MCL in WA. Susan extended her gratitude to everyone that has donated and helped make this trial a reality.
Working with BCRWA, Snowdome has developed fundraising initiatives such as the ‘Fund a Fellow’ program. This has enabled BCRWA to attract and employ top clinical researchers to help run and design trials. In addition, your donations have provided seed funding which demonstrate real and tangible benefits to patient care. A model of care implemented with seed funding has seen such a dramatic improvement in patient wellbeing that the State Government will now fund this model of care. As we know, better care results in better outcomes.
Chan finished the evening thanking the patients for going into trials and trusting the team at BCRWA with their health. He also thanked the donors for trusting Snowdome and BCRWA with their donation.
You can make a donation towards more research in WA here.