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Richard Scolyer: Top doctor remains brain cancer-free after a year

In melanoma, Prof Long – herself a renowned medical oncologist – and her team discovered that immunotherapy works better when a combination of drugs is used, and when they are administered before any surgery to remove a tumour. And so, Prof Scolyer last year became the first brain cancer patient to ever have combination, pre-surgery immunotherapy.

He is also the first to be administered a vaccine personalised to his tumour’s characteristics, which boosts the cancer-detecting powers of the drugs.

After a tough couple of months of treatment at the start of the year – spent dealing with epileptic seizures, liver issues and pneumonia – Prof Scolyer says he is feeling healthier.

“I’m the best I have felt for yonks,” he said, adding that he’s back to exercising every day – which for him often means a casual 15km (9.3 mile) jog.

“It certainly doesn’t mean that my brain cancer is cured… but it’s just nice to know that it hasn’t come back yet, so I’ve still got some more time to enjoy my life with my wife Katie and my three wonderful kids.”

The results so far have generated huge excitement that the duo may be on the cusp of a discovery which could one day help the roughly 300,000 people diagnosed with brain cancer globally each year.

Prof Scolyer and Prof Long have previously said the odds of a cure are “miniscule”, but they hope the experimental treatment will prolong Prof Scolyer’s life and will soon translate into clinical trials for glioblastoma patients.

They currently have a scientific paper under review, which details results from the first weeks of Prof Scolyer’s treatment, but Prof Long stresses that they are still a long way off developing an approved and regulated course of treatment.

“We’ve generated a whole heap of data, to then make a foundation for that next step, so that we can help more people,” she said.

“We’re not there yet. What we have to really focus on is showing that this pre-surgery, combination immunotherapy type of approach works in a large number of people.”

Roger Stupp – the doctor after whom the current protocol for treating glioblastomas is named – earlier this year told the BBC Prof Scolyer’s prognosis was “grim”, and that it was too early to tell if the treatment is working.

He added that while Mr Scolyer’s earlier results were “encouraging”, he wanted to see him reach 12 months, even 18, without recurrence before getting excited.

Prof Scoyler said he’s already proud of the data his treatment has generated and grateful to his family and his medical team for supporting “this experiment”.

“I feel proud of the team that I work with. I feel proud that they’re willing to take the risk in going down this path.”

“[It] provides some hope that maybe this is a direction that’s worth investigating more formally.”

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