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17 May 2024

Pioneering Doctor remains cancer free one year after terminal brain tumour diagnosis – thanks to own innovative treatment

Pioneering Doctor remains cancer free one year after terminal brain tumour diagnosis – thanks to own innovative treatment

Last year, University of Sydney Professor Richard Scolyer applied his innovative research on melanoma to treating his own incurable brain cancer. One year on, the Australian doctor has shared he remains cancer free since undergoing the world-first treatment for his terminal brain tumour diagnosis.

Scolyer, 57, was diagnosed with a glioblastoma in June 2023 and knew that it meant he faced “certain death”. According to The Brain Tumour Charity: "The average glioblastoma survival time is 12-18 months - only 25 percent of patients survive more than one year, and only five percent of patients survive more than five years."

This diagnosis came the same year that Scolyer, alongside his colleague, Professor Georgina Long, was named one of the ‘Australians of The Year’ due to their work in treating melanoma. The two are co-directors at the Melanoma Institute Australia, where they work to develop revolutionising treatment for the deadly skin cancer using immunotherapy. Both Scolyer and Long’s life-changing melanoma treatment is credited with saving thousands of people.

Utilising their research as the basis for his own treatment, he decided to be the “guinea pig” for applying this immunotherapy treatment to his own glioblastoma, uncertain of the what the treatment would yield. In doing so, he became the world's first brain cancer patient to have pre-surgery combination immunotherapy.

Posting an update on X one year after beginning treatment, Scolyer said he "couldn't be happier" after the results of a recent MRI showed there was still no sign of recurrence of his glioblastoma.

"Thank you to the fabulous team looking after me so well especially my wife Katie & wonderful family!"

He added to the BBC he was “more nervous” for this one-year scan than the others he had before, but is “just thrilled and delighted” with the results.

"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."

The results so far have been met with great excitement, as Scolyer and Long’s work has taken this huge leap towards a discovery which could help the roughly 300,000 people diagnosed with brain cancer globally each year.

While both professors have previously said the odds of a cure are "minuscule", they are hopeful that the innovative treatment will not only prolong Scolyer's life, but also soon translate into clinical trials for glioblastoma patients, and thereon help the public. However, with their scientific paper detailing the results from the treatment currently under review, Long stresses that they are still a long way off developing an approved and regulated course of treatment.

"We've generated a whole heap of data, to then make a foundation for that next step, so that we can help more people," she said.

"We're not there yet. What we have to really focus on is showing that this pre-surgery, combination immunotherapy type of approach works in a large number of people."

Professor Scoyler has said he is already proud of the data generated from his treatment and is also incredibly grateful to both his family and his medical team for supporting "this experiment".

"I feel proud of the team that I work with. I feel proud that they're willing to take the risk in going down this path."

"[It] provides some hope that maybe this is a direction that's worth investigating more formally."

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