Patient celebrates century of treatment on life-saving drug

Peter Suffolk celebrated a very special milestone at Westmead Hospital today.

Patient Peter Suffolk today celebrated 100 cycles of treatment six years on, after joining a life-saving trial at Westmead Hospital.

Peter was the first lung cancer patient in Australia to take part in a global study investigating immunotherapy drug Keytruda.

Today his team of doctors, led by medical oncologist Associate Professor Rina Hui from the Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre Westmead, congratulated Peter on his 100th cycle of treatment.

Peter received a trophy to mark the occasion, shaped in the form of a cricketer to represent ‘scoring a century’ of treatment.

Patient looks at his trophy
Peter received a trophy of a cricketer to mark his ‘century’ treatment milestone today.

He said the trophy was a lovely gesture with great imagination.

“I’m so grateful for what the doctors have done for me,” Peter said.

“I couldn’t feel any better right now. How do you start to repay something like this? You can say thank you but it just isn’t enough.

“Doctor Hui has given me a new life. Without what has been offered to me, without her, I wouldn’t be here today.

“I live a normal life now. I cook, I wash, I mow my lawn. Nothing holds me back. If I want to put my kayak on the water and cruise for a while I can.

“I’m very lucky.”

The words on the trophy.
The words on the trophy.

Associate Professor Rina Hui, who led this lung cancer clinical trial at Westmead Hospital said this class of drug releases the breaks of the immune system to fight cancer.

“Long-term follow-up on patients has shown remarkable results, with much longer survival than standard chemotherapy,” Associate Professor Hui said.

“Other immunotherapy drugs of this kind including Opdivo and Tecentriq have similarly been shown to prolong life in previously treated lung cancer patients who have failed other treatments.

“However, they do not work on every patient. Those patients who do respond to the treatment will usually have their disease under control for a long time.

“When Keytruda is used as a first-line treatment, it has been shown to improve survival in 30 per cent of lung cancer patients who have a particular marker in their biopsy.”

All patients who were involved in the global trial had incurable lung cancer that had already spread.

Patients who were on the trial and are responding, have been given the option to continue the treatment and follow-up care at Westmead Hospital.

Peter celebrates his milestone with his treatment team at the Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre today. Left to right: Clinical trials co-ordinator, Meenal Rai, clinical nurse specialist Sandra Whitehouse, Associate Professor Dr Rina Hui (standing), advanced trainees Dr Emma Boys and Dr Jonathon Hill, patient Peter Suffolk, medical registrar Dr Johnathan Man and clinical trials co-ordinator Dr Jason Todd (standing).

Associate Professor Hui said immunotherapy of this kind has fewer but different side effects to chemotherapy.

“Serious side effects are possible and doctors need to closely monitor patients,” Associate Professor said.

“I’m so pleased Peter Suffolk has responded well and I congratulate him on today’s wonderful milestone.”

Many immunotherapy clinical trials are being conducted to benefit more cancer patients.

Patients seeking more information about this type of treatment should speak to their oncologist.