An Adelaide grandfather suffering from a rare neuroendocrine
cancer has a new lease on life thanks to a revolutionary cancer treatment being
trialled by Professor Tim Price, head of oncology and clinical cancer research
at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (TQEH).
After suddenly falling ill, Robert Ellis from Modbury North
was undergoing emergency surgery 12 years’ ago for a suspected twisted bowel
when a pathologist was surprised to see the carcinoid tumour (also known as
Only about five in one million people get a carcinoid tumour
and even fewer develop true carcinoid syndrome. The syndrome has a range of
uncomfortable day-to-day symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal cramps, shortness of
breath and flushing.
“The pathologist had never seen a carcinoid tumour in a live
patient before,” Robert said.
To manage the day-to-day impacts of the syndrome – and allow
him to keep up with his much-loved grandkids – Robert was having chemical
injections every 21 days.
Thankfully for Robert, the trial at TQEH was available and
had a life-changing result on his quality of life. It involves a chemical red
dye – known as Rose Bengal – being injected directly into the patient’s tumour.
The dye has been found to regress tumours in melanoma patients and is now being
tested on other cancers.
“I had 216 of these [other chemical injections] before Tim
decided I was special enough to trial Bengal Rose!” Robert joked. “It worked
really well, the symptoms are diminishing in their severity.”
In a further positive sign, Robert may even be benefitting
from the ‘bystander’ effect.
“Instead of it just fighting the carcinoid tumour in the
local area, it is spreading to fight the other tumours too. At my next gallium
scan which maps out where the tumours are, for the first time we saw a
Bengal trials are ongoing, with it having the potential to be used to treat
other stomach, lung and breast cancers.
Clinical trials are only possible when
the research conducted in the lab has progressed to a stage where it can truly
impact a patient’s life. It’s thanks to your kind support of the Hospital
Research Home Lottery that allows The Hospital Research Foundation to provide
funding for these types of trials, making a difference for patients living with