"I was staring death in the face. Clatterbridge saved my life"
Adrian Taylor, a patient who was told his cancer was incurable and standard treatments would not help, is now seeing fantastic results thanks to a revolutionary new treatment, An experimental cancer vaccine being trialled at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.
“I was only 53 years old. I had a family, children, friends – I had so much left to give, and to be told I had incurable cancer was shattering,” said Adrian.
In June last year, Adrian had treatment for head and neck cancer, with a tumour on his tonsil. But a later scan showed that the cancer had spread to one of his lungs and was growing rapidly. It was inoperable and doctors told him it was terminal.
"It was devastating. I’d been given the all clear on my first diagnosis, but this time I was told that without treatment, there was a “100% chance you’re going to die” and it hit me like a ton of bricks. I went into survival mode and it suddenly wasn’t about me anymore, it was about what my family were going to do without me.
At that point I was told there was a clinical trial at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre that I might be eligible for. It was immunotherapy, with a cancer vaccine. Led by Professor Christian Ottensmeier, it’s the first trial of it’s kind in the UK and it had been made possible with the support of donations to Clatterbridge Cancer Charity.
This clinical trial was the last chance saloon from my point of view. I was staring death in the face, so I took that chance and I’m glad I did. It’s saving my life."
Since November, Adrian has been receiving injections of the cancer vaccine, which works by stimulating his own immune system to fight the disease. The vaccine is given alongside pembrolizumab, a more standard form of immunotherapy. This ground-breaking new treatment could change the way we fight cancer forever. And for Adrian, it's given him hope for the future and a chance to keep on living life to the fullest.
“The future is really positive for me now. I was proud to walk one of my daughters down the aisle late last year and I’ve attended two of my daughters’ graduations recently. A year ago, I didn’t think I’d be around long enough to do any of this.”
After taking part in Clatterbridge’s clinical research trial – a UK first – the cancer in his lung has almost been eradicated. “It is amazing,” said Adrian. “Everyone is stunned at how much progress has been achieved – especially me. The initial hope was for the cancer to not grow or spread elsewhere, and I would be able to live with it long term. To see it steadily shrink to virtually nothing is absolutely fantastic.”
Professor Christian Ottensmeier, consultant oncologist and Director of Clinical Research at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre, said: “We are all delighted with the progress Adrian is making on this clinical trial and we are cheering him on. It is very early days for this type of cancer treatment and, of course, not everyone will have such a remarkable reaction to it, but we are very excited about the possibilities.
“One of the great things about these vaccines is the reduction in side effects that patients can experience when compared to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.”
Adrian believes everyone who has the chance to take part in clinical research studies should do so. He said: “I would strongly recommend anyone to explore the opportunity to join a trial. I don’t see it as ‘what have you got to lose?’ but more a case of ‘what could you lose by not exploring trials as an option?’. Even if the treatment doesn’t produce the desired results, you are helping other people who come after you as this research is pushing the boundaries of what we know about cancer.
“And the hospital will look after you so well. I cannot thank the team at Clatterbridge enough. It’s a first-class facility with first-class people. I actually enjoy coming here.”
Adrian added: “I feel proud and privileged to be taking part in research which could change cancer treatment for ever.”