Australia's oldest melanoma survivor steps up to save lives on his 105th birthday
11 March 2021
He beat melanoma at 101 thanks to breakthrough immunotherapy treatment, and four years later World War II veteran Bert Collins is taking steps to help save others from the deadly disease.
Bert today celebrated his 105th birthday at his Bankstown home, dedicating the milestone to urging his fellow Australians to join him in helping raise $500,000 for research into new life-saving melanoma treatments.
‘I figured something had to get me in the end, and so no doubt melanoma would be it,’ Bert said. ‘But research saved my life, and so I am delighted to be stepping up at 105 to help save others.’
Bert is taking part in this year’s Melanoma March campaign, where Aussies are urged to leave their footprint on melanoma by buying a $30 digital footprint, personalising it with a message of support, and sharing it to socials. Melanoma Institute Australia wants to cover Australia in digital footprints by the end of the month.
With no social accounts to share his personalised footprint, Bert is going ‘old school’ and will be leaving real footprints in his backyard in March. He’s not sure how many steps he’ll take, but the one-time ballroom dancer and avid gardener is confident he will get outside every day.
‘This is my way of giving back, and my 105th birthday wish is for other Australians to help me by buying their own digital footprint and personalising it with a message of support,’ Bert said.
Bert’s melanoma had already spread to his brain, lungs and liver when he was diagnosed with the disease in 2017. Deemed by his local oncologist to be too frail for any treatment, he was referred to Melanoma Institute Australia where he met oncologist Associate Professor Alex Menzies who is 65 years his junior.
‘Although Bert’s melanoma was advanced, he was otherwise well and was much fitter than most men 20 years younger,’ Associate Professor Menzies said. ‘So we immediately started a short course of treatment hoping for the best. I’d never had a patient as senior as Bert, so we didn’t know exactly how his body would respond,’ he said.
After just four doses of immunotherapy, which harnesses the body’s own immune system to rally and fight the cancer cells, Bert’s tumours had disappeared and he had no toxicity from treatment. He ceased treatment at that point and four years later remains disease free, making him Australia’s oldest melanoma survivor.
Associate Professor Menzies says ‘Bert has my number’ in case he ever needs it.
Bert knows he was one of the lucky ones. Some 50% of advanced melanoma patients don’t respond to the new treatments that saved his life, with an estimated 1300 Aussies expected to die from the disease this year. Australia has the highest melanoma rates in the world with one person diagnosed with the disease every 30 minutes.
‘Thanks to ongoing research, we have come so far in finding new and more effective treatments for melanoma but we still have a long way to go if we are to save more lives,’ Associate Professor Menzies said. ‘Bert is amazing, he is a true Aussie legend who is continuing to live a life of service to help others, and I hope all of Australia gets behind him.’
To buy join Bert in buying a digital footprint and watch Australia be progressively covered in footprints, go to www.melanomamarch.org.au
MEDIA - For more information, please contact:
Jennifer Durante |Melanoma Institute Australia | 0412 798 990 | email@example.com
Sydney Health Partners' goal is to ensure world class research is successfully implemented & scaled-up to benefit patients & wider society.
Promising young MIA researcher conferred with University of Sydney PhD.
Jana Pittman and Melinda Gainsford-Taylor urge Australians to be sun-safe and check their skin as they join the Game On Mole campaign in support of their much-loved coach
Cited an incredible 427 times around the world, showing its vital role in improving outcomes for people with advanced melanoma.
Honouring the exceptional impact of his work on communities around the world.
MIA's Co-Medical Directors receive University of Sydney's Vice-Chancellor's Award for Outstanding Research
Awarded for their life-saving discoveries transforming melanoma patient care.
National day of action called amidst fears COVID lockdowns have deterred patients from seeking potentially life-saving medical treatment
Recognising her pioneering work in immunotherapy in melanoma, transforming the care of patients worldwide.
Clinicians and researchers from across Australia and beyond united online, bringing the AMC2021 conference theme of Promising Futures to life.
Melanoma Institute Australia is proud to announce that the Nine Network’s Peter Overton AM has joined us as a National Ambassador.
MIA is proud to announce that five of our researchers have been named on the Clarivate Annual Highly Cited Researchers™ 2021 list.
New research shows routine skin checks by a health professional, coupled with checking your own skin, are vital in saving lives from melanoma.
With new patient figures indicating people may have deferred skin checks during the pandemic our Game On Mole campaign is more important than ever.
We are excited to announce a return to our much-loved physical Melanoma March events in March 2022!
Read more about the wonderful MIA community fundraising initiatives held recently.
Drug therapy set to become standard treatment in high-risk early stage patients to stop disease spread
Over two fun, yet challenging, days in September an intrepid group of riders and crew successfully completed the annual Melanoma Bike Bash in WA!
Prof Long AO has been recognised by Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences for her transformative work advancing melanoma treatments.
Three MIA researchers at University of Sydney received grants to further their important melanoma research.
COVID restrictions continue to impact fundraising for melanoma services in Riverina.