Grandad with cancer who thought 'that's it then' cured without having chemotherapy
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A grandad with 'aggressive' cancer has managed to get the all-clear after an experimental therapy provided a groundbreaking treatment option without chemotherapy.
Stephen Cossins, 71, was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), a rare type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, back in 2016.
When the cancer began to spread ‘aggressively’ in 2019, Cossins, from Amersham in Buckinghamshire, decided to take part in a clinical trial looking at drugs that block the growth of cancer.
Instead of standard chemotherapy, the grandfather was put on Ibrutinib three times a day for three months, before then also taking another drug called venetolclax.
Fast forward two years later, and incredibly he now has no signs of cancer.
Cossins is now urging others to join research studies, describing the experimental therapy as the ‘best thing’ he’s ever done.
Saying his diagnosis ‘came as a complete shock’, he explained: “I had no symptoms and I’ve always been a very well person. I hadn’t had a day off work sick in over 20 years.
“You always think the C word happens to other people. When they told me, I thought ‘that’s it then’.
“You feel so much inevitability about the whole thing.”
Mr Cossins was diagnosed in 2016 and remembers the feeling of shock.
“My children were distraught when I told them and my wife was hit harder by the news that I was. She was devastated.”
The study Cossins took part in was in part funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR), which has launched a Shape the Future campaign to urge people to join health research.
It runs the Be Part of Research service, a new digital ‘match-making’ service that helps people find and take part in health and care research across the UK, which has attracted more than 150,000 people so far.
People can simply register their interest on the website or via the NHS app if they live in England, before selecting which health conditions they are interested in – from diabetes and back pain to cancer – or sign up as a healthy volunteer.
They can also choose what type of research they want to do, such as drug trials, scans, focus groups or filling in online questionnaires.
Cossins, who has three grandchildren aged eight, seven and four, continued: “It was the best thing I ever did. I entered the trial three years ago and was cured, cancer free, after two years. It’s amazing.
“My wife and children are all delighted. I don’t think any of us believed this day would come. It’s wonderful but I’m so relieved it’s over.
“I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve been successful on the trial but I hope it can help other people going through the same thing.”
He said he didn’t initially think taking part in the trial was for him, believing he would prefer chemotherapy as that is the ‘standard treatment’.
“I thought ‘do I really want to be a guinea pig for new drugs?’,” he said.
“But after the consultant and nurses explained that by taking these drugs as part of the trial, there was a possibility of being completely cancer free in two years, I thought it was worth a shot. I had to roll the dice.
“I’ve now got more time to spend with my grandkids, my family and my wife.
“We’ve been married for 46 years. I think we’ll celebrate being cancer-free properly with a short break in Devon or Cornwall.”
Professor Lucy Chappell, NIHR chief executive and chief scientific adviser to the Department of Health, said: “The NIHR funds and supports research that aims to make a difference to patients across the country – and even further afield.
“Our research covers all areas from the laboratory right through to the clinic. It leads to new treatments that benefit us in so many different ways, across so many different areas of health and care.
“Patients and the wider public are vital to this research – it is you who help researchers find the cures, treatments and breakthroughs that can help us, our friends and families to live the best and healthiest lives possible.”