A grandfather given “a death sentence” after being diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer has been cured of the disease thanks to a pioneering new technique.
The therapy used on Brian Brooks, 72, involved directly delivering high doses of radiation to tumours deep in the body, via tiny radioactive resin beads injected into his bloodstream. The treatment itself lasted just two days.
Last September doctors told Mr Brooks, a retired dog kennel owner, that he was unlikely to live more than a year after being diagnosed with bowel cancer that had spread to his liver.
However, he was later put on the Foxfire trial, which is testing the new method, called radioembolisation.
Advanced bowel cancer often spreads to the liver, because lots of blood passes directly between these organs.
The size and location of subsequent tumours sometimes makes it difficult to remove them surgically, or treat them using conventional radiotherapy.
This new technique overcomes the the problem by delivering high-dose but short-lived radiation directly into the liver tumours using radioactive ‘microspheres’ injected into their blood supply.
These become trapped in the tumour, killing cancer cells with minimal damage to healthy tissue.
Mr Brooks, from Ely near Cambridge, said: “I was given a death sentence, it’s a very difficult thing to get your head around.
“My family were devastated and one of the worst things for me was thinking I may not see my three-year-old grandson William grow up.”
But he said his wife Nicky, 67, son Iain, 45 and daughter Joanne, 40, “never gave up hope”.
He went on: “To be told you have 12 months to live and then to have completely healed 12 months down the line, we believe, is a miracle.”
His wife added: “We’ve just had the results back and the doctors can’t believe its success – they are astonished.”
Mr Brooks underwent the Foxfire treatment at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge over two days last November.
On the first day doctors mapped the blood flow over his liver, and the next day they injected the radioactive microspheres into the tumours’ blood supply.
Four months later he was told the liver tumours had disappeared, and he could commence chemotherapy to shrink the colon tumour. Seven weeks ago doctors removed them.
Mr Brooks said: “Obviously there is always the risk that the cancer can come back but I am now in remission and that is something that the doctors did not believe was possible.”
He is one of about 40 patients in Britain to receive the treatment as part of the trial, supported by Cancer Research UK’s Bobby Moore Fund and co-ordinated by Dr Ricky Sharma of the Gray Institute for Radiation Oncology and Biology at Oxford University.
It tests using radioembolisation plus chemotherapy versus chemotherapy alone, to see if the new method improves survival.
The trial only started 18 months ago and no official results have been reported yet. Dr Sharma hopes to recruit 500 suitable patients from across Britain.
Kate Law, Cancer Research UK’s director of clinical trials said: “Without clinical trials like Foxfire, we wouldn’t be able to improve techniques for cancer that are hard to treat.
“It’s a promising trial and we look forward to following its progress and seeing the results.”
Source: The Telegraph, By Stephen Adams