A man of commitment

A man of commitment

6 February 2015

Melanoma patient Joel Allsop was congratulated today on completing his participation in the international surgical clinical trial, known as MSLT-II. He was the first person in the world to complete the 10 years of follow-up for this trial. This outstanding commitment was acknowledged by Melanoma Institute Australia’s Executive Director, Professor John Thompson, who has been involved in the trial and Joel’s care from the beginning.

At age 33, Joel was diagnosed with stage 3 melanoma originating from a small mole on his thigh. He was referred to Professor Thompson in December 2004 and was invited to participate in the clinical trial. The MSLT-II trial is assessing whether complete lymph node dissection or monitoring with ultrasound is the most effective way at treating patients who have a positive sentinel lymph node biopsy. Interim findings from the study are expected in the next year or so, with the final results  being published after the decade-long follow-up of the last patient is undertaken. This international trial has only recently completed recruiting and has 1937 patients from around the world involved in the trial.

Joel was randomised on the trial to receive follow-up with ultrasound. His commitment throughout the past decade has been regular appointments and ultrasounds ranging from every 4 months in the beginning to every year after 5 years. A Sydney local for most of the decade, Joel spent 2 years during the trial flying to Sydney from Perth every 6 months to stay on the trial.

“I am a stubborn man! I will see things through to the end!” says Joel when asked about why he stayed on the trial for the whole decade.

With a family history of cancer, Joel realised that his participation would have long-lasting benefits beyond his own melanoma journey. “I knew I was getting the best possible care on the trial, but I also realised that my participation would have benefits to melanoma patients around the world.”

A decade on, Joel is healthy and his melanoma hasn’t progressed. Although getting melanoma was a “surreal blur” in the beginning, his journey has now given him a fresh perspective on life.

“Having melanoma has helped me re-evaluate what is important in life and given me clearer perspective,” says Joel. “Two years ago I was made redundant, and instead of thinking that the end of the world had come, I thought ‘well, things could be worse!’”. 

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