An incredible story of survival and recovery, made possible thanks to breakthrough cancer research.

Steven Jones-Evans had been given a terminal diagnosis shortly before he became a patient at the ONJ Centre. His bladder cancer had spread throughout his body, and a series of oncologists had told him that there was nothing that could be done. He had between three and twelve months to live.

But on becoming a patient of Associate Professor Andrew Weickhardt, a clinician researcher and medical oncologist at the ONJ Centre, Steven was prescribed Keytruda. This is an immunotherapy drug that is currently only funded in Australian public hospitals to treat melanoma. But A/Prof Weickhardt had reason to believe it would work for Steven.

Immunotherapy drugs, such as Keytruda, work by helping the body’s immune system to recognise and attack cancer cells. Our bodies often have the ability to defeat cancer in the same way that they fight infection, but tumour cells are able to evade the immune system. These new treatments make it harder for the cancer cells to hide.

Steven’s treatment worked; his body attacked the cancer cells and left his healthy cells intact. In a number of months, his scan showed no evidence of cancer.  Indeed 12 months after having a break from treatment his scan still shows no evidence of active cancer.

Prof Jonathan Cebon, head of the Cancer Immunobiology Laboratory at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute, has said in reference to immunotherapy that “nothing has happened, in my view, in the history of cancer medicine, which equals this in terms of excitement”.

This excitement is not lost on Steven. His story of survival has shown that there is potential for immunotherapy drugs to be used to treat a variety of cancers, not just melanoma. Trials are currently ongoing to investigate this at the ONJ Centre.

New immunotherapy treatments, developed and tested by researchers such as those at the ONJ Centre, often have fewer harmful side effects than chemotherapy or radiation therapy and many of them can be personalised to the individual. These treatments, which give hope to those who need it most, are only made possible by breakthrough research, funded in part by your ongoing support.

Steven’s story of recovery was so incredible that it was featured in an article by Jane Cadzow for the Good Weekend.

Read more about Steven and Andrew’s story.

Source: ‘Fight Club’, Sydney Morning Herald, by Jane Cadzow, 20 August 2016