Australia's oldest melanoma survivor steps up to save lives on his 105th birthday

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 | jennifer.durante@melanoma.org.au

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