A 55-year-old man who was diagnosed with secondary cancer in March is running the Manchester Half Marathon for The Christie. He’s well enough to take on the 13.1-mile challenge after experimental treatment at the specialist cancer centre in Manchester shrunk his tumour by more than half.

Lee Young, a garage owner from Denton in east Manchester, went to Tameside Hospital after experiencing pain in his back. A scan revealed an 8.5cm-long tumour near his kidneys. He was then referred to The Christie where he was diagnosed with cancer of the unknown primary (CUP).

CUP can be difficult to treat because, although doctors find a secondary tumour, they can’t find the primary one. Without that important bit of information, it can be difficult to know where to start with treatment. As a result, people diagnosed with CUP often have a poor prognosis. Despite making up approximately 2% of all new cancer cases, CUP accounts for 6% of all cancer deaths.

Lee’s doctors told him there was only one type of chemotherapy that would work, or he could wait to see if he could be put on a phase II clinical trial called CUPISCO, the aim of which is to understand whether personalised treatment options, with either targeted treatments or immunotherapy, can improve outcomes for certain CUP patients. He waited for the trial and his tumour has now shrunk by over half after three rounds of chemotherapy and the first round of immunotherapy. The trial is taking place at the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Manchester Clinical Research Facility (CRF) at The Christie.

“When I initially went to the hospital, the doctors told me there was basically nothing they could do for me, it was such a shock,” comments Lee. “When I came to The Christie and they told me about the clinical trial, I said yes without hesitation as even if it didn’t work for me, I knew I’d be helping someone in the future.”

“Less than half of CUP patients actually meet the criteria to be put on the trial, and I was one of the lucky ones,” continues Lee. “I wasn’t expecting the results to be so instant. I was on quite a lot of morphine before and didn’t need to touch it after the first session of chemo. I know that things can change at any time, but at the moment I’m feeling fine and want to make the most out of life – that’s why I decided to do the half marathon. I’m doing it with my daughter and we’re hoping to raise £3,000 for The Christie charity. I’m not particularly fit, so it’ll be tough, but I’m raising money and awareness and that’s what counts.”

Despite significant advances and new drug development, progress has been limited in CUP due to a lack of research and funding. Researchers at The Christie are trying to change this. The specialist cancer centre is one of the top global recruiters for the CUPISCO study.

Dr Natalie Cook, Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and Chief Investigator for the trial said: “Lee has responded well to the trial and it’s brilliant that he’s well enough to take on the half marathon. Not only is he raising money for The Christie charity, which does vital work for patients and their families, but he’s also raising awareness of a relatively unknown type of cancer which needs more research and funding. He’s an inspirational man and I wish him and his daughter all the best for the day itself.”

The Manchester Half Marathon takes place on Sunday, 9 October 2022. To find out more about other sponsored events The Christie charity has planned, visit www.christies.org/events

Last updated: May 2023