Australian doctor remains cancer free following his own treatment


BBC Online :

A year after undergoing a world-first treatment for glioblastoma, Australian doctor Richard Scolyer remains cancer-free.

The esteemed pathologist’s experimental therapy is based on his own pioneering research on melanoma.

Prof Scolyer’s subtype of glioblastoma is so aggressive most patients survive less than a year.
But on Tuesday the 57-year-old announced his latest MRI scan had again showed no recurrence of the tumour.

“To be honest, I was more nervous than I have been for any previous scan,” he told the BBC.
“I’m just thrilled and delighted… couldn’t be happier.”

Prof Scolyer is one of the country’s most respected medical minds, and was this year named Australian of the Year alongside his colleague and friend Georgina Long, in recognition of their life-changing work on melanoma.

As co-directors of the Melanoma Institute Australia, over the past decade the pair’s research on immunotherapy, which uses the body’s immune system to attack cancer cells, has dramatically improved outcomes for advanced melanoma patients globally. Half are now essentially cured, up from less than 10%.


It’s that research that Prof Long, alongside a team of doctors, is using to treat Prof Scolyer – in the hope of finding a cure for his cancer too.

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.”