A cancer patient from North Wales with just days to live has made a remarkable recovery thanks to taking part in a clinical trial at The Christie in Manchester.
Geoff Pritchard, 71, who has six sons and 13 grandchildren, and is originally from Warrington, discovered he had cancer of the mouth in 2016 and underwent radical surgery followed by radiotherapy that summer. In March 2017 he learnt the cancer had returned.
He was referred to The Christie for a clinical trial when the treatment he was receiving locally wasn’t working. In August 2017 he made the 120 mile round trip to Manchester to be assessed to see if he was eligible to try a new treatment in the hope it might be the cure he so desperately needed. By then Mr Pritchard had tumours all over his face and they were doubling in size every week and he was very unwell.
At the end of September his condition had worsened further, and with no other standard treatment available, arrangements were made to admit him to St Kentigern’s Hospice in North Wales. Before he was discharged from The Christie he had been treated intravenously with a new immunotherapy drug, a treatment that boosts the body's natural defences to fight cancer.
The trial took place at the NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility at The Christie. Incredibly once at the hospice his tumours started to shrink and within a couple of weeks he was sitting up in bed and feeling considerably better. By November 2017 the lower part of his face had healed and wasn’t showing any signs of cancer. He was discharged from the hospice and headed home for Christmas. He was able to then restart the treatment and continued to receive the drug for a year, finishing his treatment in August 2018. He has now been cancer free for more than 12 months.
Dr Robert Metcalf, consultant in medical oncology at The Christie, specialising in head and neck cancers said: “I am so pleased for Geoff and his family. We gave him one dose of a new drug, but initially the cancer was growing so quickly that he continued to rapidly deteriorate and he moved to the hospice. Against all the odds he has made a dramatic turnaround and is now disease free. We are keeping a close eye on him but there are no signs of the cancer recurring.”
Commenting on his recovery Geoff said: “I feel so lucky. It really is a miracle. I’m clear of the cancer and I now have a new lease of life. To think I was so close to death and now I am able to enjoy life again. My family were even planning my funeral and my wife, Tina, had bought suits for our sons. If it wasn’t for the clinical trials team at The Christie I wouldn’t be here. All the staff have been absolutely incredible.”
Geoff is now awaiting a date for reconstructive surgery.
The Christie is an international leader in research and development with around 650 clinical studies ongoing at any one time. The NIHR Manchester Clinical Research Facility at The Christie provides a high quality, dedicated clinical research environment for patients to participate in trials.
The Christie NHS Foundation Trust was the first specialist trust to be rated as ‘Outstanding’ twice (in 2016 and 2018) by the health regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC). It referred to The Christie as ‘a leader in cancer care’ and ‘a pioneer in developing innovative solutions to cancer care.’ The CQC praised the Trust’s staff which it said ‘go the extra mile to meet the needs of patients and their families’ and that they were ‘exceptionally kind and caring.’ In 2017, the CQC rated The Christie as the best specialist trust in the country, and one of the top three trusts overall in England.