Two generous individuals who tandem-cycled 3072 kilometres from Perth to Adelaide over 32 consecutive days, are helping Flinders cancer researchers in their quest to see patients with oesophageal and gastric cancers live longer.
Bassett Smith and Nga Phan raised more than $16,000 for cancer research at Flinders as part of their ‘Gutsy-3000’ fundraising ride. The ride was inspired by Bassett’s sister Carmel Thompson who has been treated at Flinders for gastrointestinal cancer for the past two years.
Cancer researcher Dr Amitesh Roy, who is a senior medical oncologist and lecturer at the Flinders Medical Centre and Flinders University, is preparing to put the funds towards an exciting new clinical trial for patients with curable and early-stage oesophageal and gastro-oesophageal junction cancers.
The trial, which already has 15 enrolled patients, involves them receiving immunotherapy treatment as an intravenous drug in addition to the standard chemotherapy and radiotherapy regimen given prior to their surgery.
Immunotherapy is a type of cancer treatment that works by boosting a person’s own immune system to fight cancer. While it is often used to treat melanoma, lung, kidney and head and neck cancers, its use is relatively new when it comes to oesophageal and gastric cancers.
“At present, concurrent chemotherapy and radiotherapy given prior to surgery is successful in the killing of cancer cells in about 20 to 30 per cent of cases, but we want to see if the addition of immunotherapy can improve this rate and eventually patient’s survival,” Dr Roy explains.
He will investigate biomarkers to predict a patient’s prognosis and treatment response in the new clinical trial in the hope of identifying the patients that are most likely to benefit from the combination treatment.
“Oesophageal and stomach cancers are uncommon and difficult to treat cancers and unfortunately chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery have difficult side effects that go with that and can alter patient’s quality of life and lead to a long recovery,” Dr Roy says.
“And sadly, despite all this, there’s still a 50 to 60 per cent chance the cancer will return within three to five years.
“This biomarker work will add to our ability to understand this cancer further, assess its response to novel immunotherapy treatment and potentially help select patients who are likely to benefit from the chemo-immuno-radiotherapy combination.”
Dr Roy is extremely grateful to Bassett and Nga, and all those who supported them in their fundraising efforts, for giving hope to patients with this disease at Flinders and elsewhere.
“I’m very grateful to Bassett and Nga for the huge effort they have put themselves through – both physically and mentally – to take on a challenge like this.
“Their fundraising is supporting research that takes big steps towards better outcomes for patients with this difficult to treat cancer, which is so important in our quest to see our patients live longer.”