A grandfather who was given just weeks to live after being diagnosed with terminal cancer has made a “miracle” recovery thanks to a revolutionary new drug.
Donald Cheetham, 77, was diagnosed with malignant melanoma which had spread to this lungs, liver, brain, lymph nodes, spleen, bones and skin.
Doctors found tennis-ball sized tumours in his lungs and clusters of growths on his liver and told him he had weeks to live and advised him to say goodbye to his family.
But just weeks after taking newly available immunotherapy drug Pembrolizumab as an outpatient, his health began to improve.
Astonishingly, two years after starting the treatment Mr Cheetham was given the all clear after scans showed the cancer had been completely eradicated from his body.
Mr Cheetham, a retired managing director of an engineering firm, said: “To me it is a miracle.
“I was being given palliative, end of life care and being supported by a hospice. I thought my time was up.
“The immunotherapy treatment was relatively new and I was told it might or might not work, especially because the cancer had spread to my brain.
“But after a few weeks I suddenly felt like I had more energy and the scans showed the tumours were shrinking until they were gone.
“The doctors said they were not expecting such good results and I have to say I’m amazed to still be here.
“I didn’t spend one night in hospital and didn’t undergo any chemotherapy and I’ve been clear of cancer for almost a year. I consider myself extremely lucky.”
Mr Cheetham, from Pershore, Worcs., was diagnosed with aggressive cancer in May 2016 by his GP following an appointment for what he believed was a urine infection.
A CT scan revealed a large tumour on his lung but the cancer had also spread to his liver and spleen.
Doctors told Mr Cheetham, who has two grown-up children and three grandchildren, the disease had spread too far to be treated effectively.
Mr Cheetham was told chemotherapy was not an option for treating his cancer, but immunotherapy could be worth trying because it could extend his life by a few months.
Immunotherapy uses drugs to re-programme the immune system into attacking cancerous cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed.
He was injected with the drug every three weeks as an outpatient at Worcestershire Royal Hospital.
Initially Mr Cheetham suffered side effects but, soon, his family noticed an improvement.
His daughter Angie Crump, 48, said: “said: “Suddenly he began to improve, each day he became stronger and stronger, no one could believe the speed of the recovery.
“Doctors put the radiotherapy on hold to allow the progress of the immunotherapy to continue.
“And then scans began to show that the cancerous nodules on the brain were gone, and they were shrinking elsewhere too.”
Mr Cheetham completed his immunotherapy treatment last year and is currently cancer-free.
Pembrolizumab is a revolutionary skin cancer treatment that shrinks tumours has been made available on the NHS.
Doctors described the results as “jaw-dropping” after it approved for use on the NHS by drugs rationing watchdog Nice.
It was of the first of a new wave of immunotherapy treatments, which harnesses the body’s own immune system and teaches it to attack tumours.
In trials it was shown to be twice as effective as chemotherapy, halting and even shrinking tumour growth for 34 per cent of patients with advanced malignant melanomas.
Immunotherapy Clinical Nurse Specialist, Helen Grist, for Worcestershire Royal Hospital, said: “We treat around 100 patients a year with this form of Immunotherapy treatment, and although it’s not suitable for all patients with cancer, we’re delighted to hear that Donald responded so positively to his treatment.”