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Man Given One Year To Live Now Cancer-Free After Immunotherapy Trial | cancer research

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A man with a year to live after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer is now disease-free thanks to a UK trial of a personalized drug regimen.

Robert Glynn, 51, a welder from Worsley, Greater Manchester, said he “wouldn’t be here” if it weren’t for the remarkable results of the immunotherapy trial carried out by the Christie NHS foundation in Manchester.

Glynn was diagnosed with intrahepatic bile duct cancer the day before his 49th birthday in June 2020 after experiencing severe pain in his shoulder, which left him unable to sleep.

Also known as biliary tract cancer, this aggressive condition causes the cells lining the bile ducts to multiply and grow larger than they should. The bile ducts are small tubes that connect the liver, gallbladder and small intestine (intestine). They release bile into the intestines after eating, helping to digest fat.

By the time of Glynn’s diagnosis, the cancer had spread to her adrenal gland and liver, with tumors too large to operate on. It was classified as stage 4, with a dismal prognosis.

“I asked my consultant to be honest and tell me how long I would have if I continued as I was, and she said 12 months,” he said.

Around 1,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with bile duct cancer each year. For those, like Glynn, whose cancer had spread to other organs, only one in 50 people (2%) lived at least five years after diagnosis, according to US studies cited by Liver Cancer UK.

Glynn was referred to Christie, where he was considered a good candidate to participate in a clinical trial of an immunotherapy drug that has already been approved for use in lung, kidney and esophageal cancer. Immunotherapy works by helping the immune system recognize and attack cancer cells.

Pre-treatment analysis of Glynn’s tumor showed that it had a high mutational load (large number of genetic mutations in the cells), suggesting that it might have a good response to treatment.

The treatment, which is given by a drip and helps the person’s own immune system fight the cancer, was combined with standard chemotherapy.

The drug cannot be named due to the experimental nature of this study for bile duct cancer.

The tumor in his liver has shrunk from 12cm to 2.6cm, while the tumor in his adrenal gland has shrunk from 7cm to 4.1cm. This meant Glynn was able to undergo surgery in April to remove her tumors.

The surgeons found only dead tissue, which meant that the treatment had killed all the cancer cells. “They didn’t find any active cancer cells. They tested the tumors twice because they couldn’t believe it,” said Glynn.

“One of Christie’s nurses said it was a miracle. I don’t like that word – I’m just an average guy – but it’s definitely notable. Without the trial I would not be here,” she added.

Since his operation in April of this year, Glynn has not needed any further treatment and his quarterly scans show he is cancer-free.

New studies are now being carried out with more patients, in the hope of changing the treatment of bile duct cancer.

After learning of the obesity-cancer link, Glynn also completely changed her diet, losing ten pounds by cutting out all processed foods, refined sugar, dairy and milk. “It was the kick in the ass I needed to change my life,” he said.

Professor Juan Valle, consultant oncologist at Christie and the world’s leading specialist in biliary tract cancer, said: “Robert did very well with this combination due to his tumor having a high mutation load or a high number of genetic mutations.

“Most patients with this diagnosis don’t have as many mutations in their cancer cells, so treatment won’t be as effective, but it highlights the importance of personalized medicine.

“The results of this research and another larger study are eagerly awaited by colleagues around the world, as they may lead to a change in the way we treat patients like Robert in the future.”