A retired police officer from Lancashire is giving his backing to a new fundraising appeal to help fund a research doctor to work on specialist clinical trials to find new treatments to help beat a rare cancer.
Kevin Jones, who lived and worked in Blackburn as a firearms officer and in neighbourhood policing before retiring to Devon in 2021, was diagnosed with a rare neuroendocrine tumour in 2018. These can develop when changes happen in the neuroendocrine cells and tumours start to grow out of control.
Kevin, who is married to Jannine and has a grown-up son Brandon, was initially treated with standard chemotherapy for 9 months and his tumour shrank, but a routine scan 6 months later unfortunately revealed his tumour had started to grow again. Kevin and his wife were devastated by the news that there was no agreed second course of treatment for his very rare form of cancer.
Kevin was then given the option to go on a clinical trial at The Christie designed specifically for people in Kevin’s position. Patients with ‘poorly differentiated neuroendocrine carcinoma’ – tumours that are difficult to see – who had previously had unsuccessful chemotherapy and for whom there was no agreed second line of treatment.
For Kevin, the trial offered him new hope of improved treatment and more time with his family. The goal was to see if 1 combination of chemotherapy drugs was better than a different drug and effective for longer, or if it increased the time until patients needed to change to a different treatment.
Despite the difference between his home in Tiverton in Devon and The Christie, Kevin was happy to continue to travel to Manchester for his treatment. The trial involved regular appointments for chemotherapy treatments, and scans every 8 weeks – which have revealed Kevin’s tumour, which was resting on a vein in his groin, has shrunk by an amazing 88% from the size of a walnut to the size of a raisin.
Kevin said: “We thought we had exhausted every option before I found out about the trial. But my response to the new treatment has been amazing. It has given me my life back when I seriously thought I might not survive.
“When I moved to Devon, some people thought it was strange I wanted to carry on my treatment at The Christie, but a few hours in the car is nothing to know I am being treated by the world’s best experts who are very knowledgeable but also incredibly kind and compassionate. We have all been amazed by the results. The tumour has now been reduced to a manageable size, I can ride a motorbike and move around with little trouble when I would previously have been in terrible pain. I’m living life again and enjoying my retirement the way I had hoped to. And that’s all thanks to a clinical trial at The Christie.”
The Christie is now fundraising for a doctor to support that work called a clinical research fellow. Clinical research fellows spend half their time in research clinics and half in follow-up clinics, so they’re immersed in the clinical management of patients, as well as their involvement in clinical trials and research. They get involved in auditing results, in retrospective studies, in presentations – and they share learning from Manchester to help other researchers working on similar studies across the world.
The new clinical research fellow will also provide a further local benefit through weekly teaching in medical oncology, clinical oncology, and within their specialism of the hepato-pancreato-biliary and neuroendocrine disease group.
Dr Mairéad McNamara, a senior lecturer and honorary consultant in medical oncology at The Christie, said: “Part of the role of our new clinical research fellow will be to improve survival rates by trialling new combinations of drugs. The hepato-pancreato-biliary and neuroendocrine disease group includes some particularly medically challenging cancers such as pancreatic cancer, which is responsible for some 10,300 cancer cases in the UK alone. That is why we are so determined to uncover new treatments that will improve the lives of people affected by these very hard to diagnose forms of the disease.
“Sadly the prognosis for patients with these cancers can be very poor, resulting in short survival times and diminished quality of life. This has not improved significantly over the last 5 years. More research is desperately required to improve quality of life and increase survival times for patients diagnosed with these cancers. And we already know that research trials conducted by clinical research fellows frequently improve lives as demonstrated by Kevin. Our next Clinical Research Fellow will be entirely funded by charitable donations so we hope people will get on board and support us.”
Kevin is lending his story to a fundraising appeal which aims to encourage supporters to donate towards the project. Kevin will be featured in a mailing which will be posted to people throughout the region.
He added: “If sharing my story in this way helps to raise the money needed, it is the very least I can do as a thank you to The Christie for giving me my life back. I am living proof that clinical trials work, but without the public’s help they wouldn’t take place.”
You can find more information on the fundraising appeal on our hepato-pancreato-biliary cancer research campaign.
The Christie charity supports the work of The Christie NHS Foundation Trust providing enhanced services over and above what the NHS funds. This includes money for care and treatment, research, education and extra patient services. Gifts from the public make a huge difference to the care and treatment that The Christie is able to provide to patients and their families.
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.