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Eric Ormerod thought the outlook was bleak after he was diagnosed with lung cancer in January 2020, but less than 18 months later he rang the ceremonial bell at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre – Liverpool, signalling the successful end to his treatment.
Eric, 68, was one of the first patients to be cared for at the hospital when it opened in central Liverpool in June last year and he said goodbye to the medical team treating him just before the building’s first birthday.
Shortly after being diagnosed with lung cancer – when a scan showed a tumour following a lung health check at his local NHS clinic – Eric was offered the chance to help medical research at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust. He was offered the possibility to have surgery, but the chances of the cancer coming back within five years were more than 50%, so he agreed to participate in a clinical trial to receive treatment before his surgery.
He joined the IMpower 030 clinical trial and after a few months of being treated with a combination of immunotherapy and chemotherapy his tumour had reduced by half in the scans – shrinking so much that he could have keyhole surgery at Liverpool’s Broadgreen Hospital to remove it.
When the pathologists looked at his tumour under the microscope, they could see what was left was only dead cancer tissue. He then continued with immunotherapy for a year and now there are no signs of cancer on his scans.
“I was shell-shocked when I was told I had lung cancer. But my treatment has been second to none – and now I’ve been told I’m free of cancer it makes me feel I have dodged a bullet! I am so pleased I was able to go on this research trial – I put my faith in the experts and it has paid off.
“They said I was a good candidate for the trial and so after talking it over with my wife, Trisha, I decided to go for it. I didn’t think I had anything to lose.
“People of my generation did not really speak about cancer. With lung cancer people thought it was a death sentence – but I’ve been incredibly lucky all the way through – and now I’m cancer free. It’s wonderful.”
Eric’s first treatment coincided with the start of the pandemic but his care was uninterrupted. “I didn’t have a single appointment cancelled,” he said. “I thought the trial would stop when lockdown came, but it continued. I feel really lucky to have had this fantastic care, especially during the pandemic.”
Eric began his treatment at Clatterbridge’s Wirral site but when the Liverpool hospital opened, his care moved there, just 15 minutes from his home in Childwall, Liverpool.
“It is an amazing building and I was so lucky that I could be treated so close to home,” said Eric. “Having a hospital like this on my doorstep really is fantastic. It is a great facility – it feels more like a hotel and the care I have had has been wonderful. I want to thank the staff – they have been brilliant. I will miss them all.”
Eric gave up smoking on the day he was diagnosed with lung cancer – ending a 30-year habit. He said: “I worked in the building trade since I was 15 and must’ve come across asbestos – and I was a smoker for 30 years – so I thought it was best to get my lungs checked out.
“I saw a poster for lung checks at my local clinic and went to see the nurse. She suggested a scan, which picked up a growth. I couldn’t believe it. I quit smoking the day I was diagnosed – but I should have done it many years before.”
Even though Eric has finished his treatment, he will have regular check-ups from the medical research team and encourages anyone offered a clinical trial to sign up.
He said: “I will be in the privileged position of being closely monitored for a long time, which is brilliant. I’m so glad I agreed to join the research trial – don’t have a moment’s hesitation if you are offered to join one.”
The Impower 030 trial follows a series of studies of chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatment combinations that have shown outstanding results.
“Currently, we rarely offer chemotherapy treatment before surgery and never with immunotherapy as the evidence is not there yet.
“Eric’s fantastic response to treatment before surgery is only an example that suggests chemotherapy and immunotherapy combination is likely to be the standard of care in the future management of lung cancer patients, although we will have to wait for the studies to report the full results before this happens.
“In the meantime, we have been doing our best at Clatterbridge to open these studies because we think we can already offer a likely future treatment option to our patients now, and potentially increase surgical cure rates.”
Dr Escriu thanked surgical colleagues at the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital and the Lung Pathology department at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital for their help in the clinical trial.
He added: “It is great to be part of such a revolution in cancer treatment from the outset. I went into oncology because I wanted to make a difference in supporting cancer patients through difficult times. But when you sit down with a patient like Eric and tell him that no cancer cells were found in the bit of lung they took away where the cancer was sitting once… that moment alone is worth the years of sacrifice and hard work.”
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