The next public forum hosted by local think-tank the Newcastle Institute will be very special.
Three years ago Dr Rhys Thomas was commencing his career as an Anaesthetist in Newcastle. He had completed the difficult years of specialist training, and was planning to spend more time with his young family, as well as working as an anaesthetist in both Newcastle and in overseas aid hospitals. His life was shattered when he was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma that had already spread through his body. He and his treating Doctors – who were his own friends and colleagues – knew that his life expectancy, even with treatment, was a few months.
Just as the diagnosis was made, a new class of cancer drugs, that work through immunotherapy, became available. Based on years of basic science research, these drugs are now undergoing clinical trials, including in Newcastle. It is still early days, but for some patients, and for some cancers, the results are extraordinarily successful.
This is one of the most dramatic steps forward in cancer treatment in decades.
Some have described this breakthrough as a ‘Penicillin moment’.
For Rhys Thomas, after a difficult two-year journey, his cancer appears to be controlled. He is now ready to tell his story.
This is a story of both emotion and science. Dr Fiona Abell, Director of the Melanoma Unit at the Calvary Mater Hospital, will explain the science behind these breakthrough drugs and give an overview of the early research findings. She will also discuss some of the other promising new drugs that are ‘in the pipeline’, which may also revolutionise the treatment of other cancers.
The evening is open to the general public, and will include time for questions and discussion.