First James Cook patient joins global lung cancer trial

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Just weeks after being diagnosed with lung cancer Kathleen Gilligan has become the first patient at The James Cook University Hospital to take part in a new international clinical trial that may prove to be practice changing.

Kathleen Gilligan

The Middlesbrough hospital is one of 10 centres in the UK taking part in the global research project to investigate the benefits of combining two immunotherapy drugs or immunotherapy with chemotherapy.

Kathleen, 63, of Catterick Garrison, was told that without treatment she may only have four to six months to live so she was excited to be offered the chance to take part in the Checkmate 227 clinical trial.

“They said there was a new trial and I thought I’m just going to have to give it a go. I thought it might help me and it might help some other people further down the line,” she said.

“I feel very proud to be the first in this area to take part and I’m surprised at how well I feel after my first treatment.”

The trial has strict entry criteria and involves attending hospital for treatment every two weeks, but it has given Kathleen and her family hope, especially after reading in the national press about others who have had successful results from similar treatments.

Medical oncologist Dr Talal Mansy said: “Lung cancer survival is still one of the lowest of all cancers but progress is slowly being made.

“More recently, immunotherapy drugs, which are drugs that switch on the immune system to fight cancer, have been proven to be more effective, less toxic and keep more people alive than chemotherapy in the second line setting in lung cancer (patients who have already had chemotherapy and their lung cancer is growing again).

“There are still a lot of unanswered questions. Is immunotherapy more effective treating patients in the first line setting (patients who have not received any treatment for their lung cancer)? Does combining immunotherapy with chemotherapy result in an even greater benefit? What about if we combine two immunotherapy drugs together, will this increase their benefit further?

“The Checkmate 227 clinical trial is investigating these questions and the results may prove to be practice changing.”

Medical oncologists Dr Mansy and Dr Louise Li worked with a number of teams to bring the trial to James Cook including trials officers, the research and development department, histopathology, radiology, nuclear medicine, pharmacy, the chemotherapy day unit and schedulers.

Dr Mansy added: “To have this as an option for our patients is extremely exciting.”