After finding out he had advanced prostate cancer, Ally went through treatment after treatment with no success. Just when it seemed like he’d lost all hope, he was offered a lifeline in Professor Johann de Bono’s immunotherapy clinical trial.

8 Nov 2019

After finding out he had advanced prostate cancer, Ally went through treatment after treatment with no success. Just when it seemed like he’d lost all hope, he was offered a lifeline in Professor Johann de Bono’s immunotherapy clinical trial.

“When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, it was already a difficult period in my life. My mother and Aunt had just passed away within seven days of each other and I was due to fly out to Canada for their funerals. As soon as the word ‘cancer’ was mentioned, I thought I’m doomed now, I’m going to die too. Thankfully my wife was and still is an incredible support, I can’t forget what she said to me when I found out; ‘don’t worry, we’ll beat this, we’re going to be okay’.”

“After returning home from the funeral, they started my treatment and after about nine months, they put me on radiotherapy. The disease went dormant for almost two and a half years before my PSA started to rise again. They needed to try something else. I didn’t really fancy having chemotherapy, but at the time it was my only other option. After three days I lost my beloved dreads, I went to tie my hair back and they just fell out. I had horrible side effects from the chemotherapy, and the improvements in my PSA were minor – it wasn’t worth it for me.”

Being part of the immunotherapy ACE clinical trial was really the best thing I have ever done

For some men like Ally, who’s treatment options are narrowing, taking part in a clinical trial can be a great option. Not only do they have access to treatments and procedures which aren’t widely available yet, but they get to help to contribute to the research that will help men with prostate cancer in years and generations to come. For Ally, the opportunity to take part in a clinical trial was the lifeline he needed.

“When I got the call about being involved in Professor Johann de Bono’s immunotherapy ACE clinical trial, it was a relief to be offered another option. At the time I was thinking, I have three choices: I can have more chemotherapy, I can go on a clinical trial or I can do nothing. I ruled out chemotherapy straight away, but I decided it was too early for me to do nothing, I still had a lot of life left to live. So, the immunotherapy ACE clinical trial it was.”

Immunotherapy is a completely new way of thinking about prostate cancer treatment. Instead of treating the cancer, this kind of treatment targets men’s immune systems, and trains it to tackle the cancer itself. Promising results have been seen in immunotherapy in some cancers, like blood or skin cancer. But in prostate cancer, progress has lagged.   

Professor Johann de Bono from the Institute of Cancer Research is hoping to turn this around. In his ACE clinical trial, he’s testing a new immunotherapy treatment in men with a mutation in a certain gene, called PTEN. Research has shown that, much like Ally, these men are less likely to respond to treatments like hormone therapy and chemotherapy. Professor de Bono thinks this might be because these cancers are able to ‘hide’ from the immune system, stopping it from fighting the cancer. In this trial, he’s testing whether giving men a drug to help kick the immune system into action can improve treatment outcomes for men like Ally.

“Since joining the clinical trial, the team have been beyond attentive, they genuinely care about my wellbeing. When I started on the trial, I was nervous but they made me feel at ease. What’s even better is so far the treatment has been positive and I’m in remission. I also no longer have the awful side effects like I did when I had chemotherapy, I don’t have any side effects from this treatment.”

Because of the work of people like Professor Johann de Bono and Prostate Cancer UK, I’m in remission, I’m living life and I’m still raising hell.

“I’ve always said if prostate cancer is going to catch up to me, it’s going to catch up to me, but I’m not going to help it. So, anything I can do, like taking part in this clinical trial, to keep me going and slow down the effects of the prostate cancer, I will.

“Nearly five years ago, my Grandson was born, I remember thinking when he came along that I may not be there to see his fifth birthday. He’s now five years old and this morning my wife and I took him to school like any other Grandparent would. He’s cheeky and lovely and makes us laugh. Those things for me are just a few of the reasons to keep fighting, and I’ll keep fighting for my family.”

By raising £1 million this Christmas, we can kick-start more immunotherapy research into prostate cancer, just like Professor Johann de Bono’s ground-breaking ACE trial.

Donate today and help us give families, like Ally’s wife and Grandchildren more time with the men they love.

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