Dad with terminal cancer given hope by ground-breaking precision oncology test
A father of two with terminal cancer has been given new hope after being offered a free pioneering test to help find alternative treatments.
Mick Weldon, 38, from Cambourne, has a rare form of stomach cancer which is resistant to conventional forms of treatment.
In April, the News reported on Mick’s efforts to crowdfund enough money to cover the cost of analysis of new treatments.
After reading his story, Cambridge-based research company Oncologica approached Mick to offer a ground-breaking test for free.
Mick was first admitted to hospital in December 2015 with a suspected ruptured ulcer, only to be later diagnosed with a cancer that had spread to his abdomen, liver, and surrounding organs.
Doctors found that Mick had a rare subset of Stage 4 GIST stomach cancer called wild type SDH deficient, which is incurable, but could be held at bay by new drugs.
Normally costing around £1,500, Mick under went an Oncofocus test, which has been developed to detect every mutation linked to every drug and applicable to all tumour types.
Oncologica claim that the test can identify specific treatment options in 85 to 90 per cent of patients.
Mick’s results show that a certain protein, PDL-1, expressed by his tumours, was acting as a ‘cloaking agent’ and effectively hiding the tumour from his immune system.
He now hopes his crowdfunding efforts will help to finance three cycles of anti-PDL-1 drugs.
“I’ve gone from having no options to a lot of options,” he said. “I’m amazingly positive. I’ve gone from a place where I had no hope to where I have a viable option. We’re all really upbeat.”
Mick hopes new treatments will give him more time to spend with his wife Emma and daughters Charlie, 17, and Rebecca, 15.
He previously said: “No one prepares for their own death, no wife wants to stand by and watch her once proud strong husband slowly degrade, and I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it must be for two beautiful young ladies to watch the father they have looked up to for as long as they have known slowly slip away.”
If Mick is able to secure the funding for his three cycles of drugs he hopes the evidence gathered will benefit other cancer patients.
“The NHS needs evidence,” he said. “We have to prove these drugs are viable.”
“I’d like to be in a position to start up a database where people can find this information where people can look up their options.”
He also remains realistic about how any new drugs will help his condition, but very thankful to the support of Oncologica.
“Even if this fails, at least something is being done and I’m not just waiting to die,” Mick said.
“[Oncologica] are absolutely amazing people. It buoyed me up. Until that point I was coming to the end of conventional treatment.”
Dr Marco Loddo, co-founder and scientific director at Oncologica, said: “We saw the article and learnt about Mick’s story and in particular that his tumour type was quite rare and found out that he had exhausted all treatment options on the NHS.
“We hoped that we might be able to help with our tests. We’re happy to help.”
Oncologica is a precision oncology services laboratory and contract research organisation founded in 2014.
Its Oncofocus test aims to help encourage a move away from toxic non-specific cancer treatments to the use of the new generation of biological anti-cancer agents called targeted therapies.
Targeted therapies specifically hit cancer cells and not the normal cells of the body. They are said to be more effective than chemotheraphy because patients are spared severe toxic side effects such as hair loss, infections, anaemia, gut toxicity and fatigue.
Professor Gareth Williams, co-founder and medical director, said: “What we are doing is to optimise the treatment pathway to provide a roadmap and that can have huge benefits for patients. You can avoid all the toxicity issues.”