Former policeman who thought he was going to die backs life-saving clinical trials

A Macclesfield man who was told to prepare for the worst during his cancer treatment is marking International Clinical Trials Day (20 May) by encouraging other patients to consider taking part in this vital medical research if given the opportunity.

Paul Ellis, aged 66, is a retired Cheshire Police Officer and Senior Driving Examiner with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA). Once Paul retired from the Police Service, having worked as a Traffic Patrol Officer and a Detective during his career, he joined the DVSA as a Driving Examiner, a job that he thoroughly enjoyed having started the role at Macclesfield Driving Test Centre and was soon promoted to senior manager taking charge of Northwich, Warrington, Crewe, Garston and St Helens Test Centres.

Paul is currently on a clinical trial at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust after being diagnosed with bile duct cancer in November last year.

He said: “When I was first diagnosed, I was told to prepare for the worst, but thankfully I am living proof about how beneficial clinical trials can be. Even when you think you’re at the end of the line, this vital research can be a ray of hope. I’d encourage anyone in a similar situation to consider a trial if they are given the opportunity.

Paul, a father and grandfather of 2, is on a Phase 3 trial which involves him attending The Christie in south Manchester for a full day for chemotherapy treatment twice every three weeks. These can be long days for Paul, with at least two hours spent travelling alongside eight hours of treatment which includes blood tests and being placed on a drip to receive drugs intravenously which can make him feel temporarily unwell and tired.

He has been on a trial since January and has already seen a huge improvement in his health, with a recent scan showing his tumour has already reduced by nearly a third. Paul expects to be on the treatment indefinitely. He added: “I definitely think I have the clinical trial to thank for the new lease for life I have. I was really quite poorly before starting treatment, but now I have hardly any pain and I feel so much better and stronger.”

Paul is sharing his story as The Christie continues to make progress on building a new £26m treatment centre at Macclesfield District General Hospital. 

When the new Centre opens at the end of this year, it will provide Christie cancer care close to home for more than 1500 existing patients attending up to 40,000 appointments ever year. The new Centre will transform cancer care for residents in Cheshire, the High Peak area of Derbyshire and parts of North Staffordshire, providing local specialist access to radiotherapy, chemotherapy and a wider range of clinical trials than at present, giving more patients access to new treatments as they become available.

Living on the outskirts of Macclesfield, Paul will be one of many who will benefit from being able to receive his treatment closer to home when the Centre opens at the end of this year.

Paul said: “I have to travel to The Christie site in Withington for treatment, and they can be very long days. I try not to put a clock on it because I know I am in the best place, getting the best treatment, but there is no doubt that having my treatment closer to home would be an advantage, for both me and my family.

“The new Christie Centre in Macclesfield will make a huge difference to patients like me and others who follow. Being treated in Macclesfield will be less stressful and time consuming for many patients. It gives us back precious time to spend with family and friends doing the things we love. It’s a fantastic project and I know it will benefit a great many people.”

He added: “The Christie is not just about bricks and mortar, it’s about the team treating you, who you know are the best at what they do. They are so confident and reassuring and just really nice people. To get that treatment closer to home would be the icing on the cake.”

Paul’s treatment at The Christie is being led by Dr Richard Hubner, an expert in cancers of the pancreas, biliary tract (cholangiocarcinoma and gallbladder cancer), liver and neuroendocrine tumors.

Dr Hubner said: “Clinical trials are vital for developing new treatments, making sure they are safe and more effective than current ones. But we wouldn’t be able to carry out this important work without the support of patients like Paul. Paul has shown an excellent response to his trial and we are delighted it is working so well for him. What we learn from Paul’s response to the treatment will ultimately help many patients like him in the future.”

Clinical trials are research studies that involve people in assessing treatments and their effects. Experts at The Christie run around 650 clinical research trials each year, as leaders in ‘first-in-human’ trials, hosting more cancer clinical trials for industry than anywhere else in the country.

Clinical trials measure things like how well an intervention works and if it has any side effects and can last from a few weeks to several years. 

The new Macclesfield cancer Centre is being part funded by The Christie charity, with a fundraising appeal currently underway. For details of how you can support The Christie at Macclesfield appeal, go to our Macclesfield campaign page.

Last updated: October 2021