Oral Presentation Clinical Oncology Society of Australia Annual Scientific Meeting 2017

Living well with immunotherapies - the patient perspective (#108)

Karen van Gorp 1
  1. Melanoma Patients Australia/Cancer Voices SA, Blackwood, SA, Australia

 Introduction: A diagnosis of aggressive stage IV melanoma in early 2013 was, to most people, a death sentence. I was not able to access the Vemurafenib trial, chemo did not work and Yervoy was not yet on the PBS. Very few people knew about the possibilities of immunotherapies. By late October 2013 metastases were evident in my lungs, liver, bones and under my skin on my scalp and arms. Breathing was painful and becoming difficult.

Earlier in August I had researched and discovered a phase III immunotherapy trial which finally commenced in October 2013. My complete response to this treatment, whilst relieving, was unexpected.

Discussion: In retrospect, there are several actions that may have assisted in such a positive outcome. Once I was advised of my stage IV diagnosis and lung metastases I increased my exercise and focussed on my diet with the aim of keeping my body as healthy as possible and my lungs open. Whilst living in hope, I also asked to be referred to the Southern Adelaide Palliative Care Service which provided an unexpected level of care and support along with that offered by Melanoma Patients Australia.

Conclusion: The reasons behind the success of immunotherapy drugs are mysteries currently being unveiled. But, it is becoming obvious that it is a whole of person approach that will enable people afflicted by cancer to live with the diagnosis and continue or return to a full and productive life.