Tuesday 21 May 2019

Patient given just months to live and now 'virtually in remission' after cancer trial calls for Government to reverse cuts

Nick Wheeler said he is now 'virtually in remission'
Photo Kenneth O Halloran
Nick Wheeler said he is now 'virtually in remission' Photo Kenneth O Halloran
Nick Wheeler pictured at the Just Ask Your Team launch Photo: Kenneth O Halloran

Gabija Gataveckaite

A PATIENT who was given just months to live has said that his life has been turned around thanks to a pioneering cancer trial.

Nick Wheeler (62), who lives in Lucan, Dublin, was given the devastating news in 2017 that he had mere months left to live by his doctor after having been initially diagnosed with bladder cancer seven years previously.

As pressure increases on the Government to reverse funding cuts for cancer trials, Mr Wheeler shared his story and said he is now "virtually in complete remission" thanks to trials.

"My doctor said if ‘you can’t find treatment that suits, you’ve got six to nine months left to live’," he told Independent.ie

Nick Wheeler pictured at the Just Ask Your Team launch Photo: Kenneth O Halloran
Nick Wheeler pictured at the Just Ask Your Team launch Photo: Kenneth O Halloran

Thankfully, his doctor offered him the chance to try Immunotherapy, a cancer treatment which was on trial.

"When I was given six months to live, I researched the trials online and there was a 15pc-20pc success rate as opposed to none. I jumped at the opportunity and I suggest anybody who is in a similar position to do so as well.

"Now the pain is gone and there has been massive improvement. I’m virtually in complete remission.

"I had a scan last week and I got a call saying that it’s good news and the scan is as good as the last one. I’ll be on treatment for the rest of my life and that’s brilliant," he explained.

Mr Wheeler said that he believes we must look at new ways like Immunotherapy to treat cancer.

"In my opinion, chemotherapy is a horrible way of treating cancer. The Immunotherapy enhances your immune system to fight disease, rather than killing cells."

He added: "It is scary, I wasn’t aware of clinical trailing, without my doctor’s intervention I don’t know what I would have done."

Mr Wheeler is a patient advocate for Cancer Trials Ireland (CTI), a research group which had its Government funding slashed by €3 million over the last three years.

This is the third consecutive year that the group has had its funding cut by 20pc.

According to the charity, further funding cuts can mean that other patients like Mr Wheeler would not be able to find potentially successful treatment alternatives.

"Clinical trials save and improve lives by giving patients access to new drugs they simply wouldn’t get otherwise,” said Averil Power, Chief Executive of the Irish Cancer Society.

CTI is a registered charity and is partly-funded by grants from the Health Research Board (HRB), the Irish Cancer Society and St. Luke’s Institute of Cancer Research.

The HRB is a state agency that "provides evidence to prevent illness, improve health and transform patient care", according to their website.

A spokesperson for the agency said that the HRB has provided Cancer Trials Ireland with over €40 million in funding over the past ten years.

"It was necessary to adjust the CTI investment in line with reductions in the HRB budget during the recession and to maintain a balanced portfolio of investments," the spokesperson added.

"During the same period the HRB increased investment in clinical research infrastructure generally and developed trial networks in other key areas including stroke, primary care, mothers and babies and critical care," the spokesperson concluded.

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