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

Toyota and country music fans invited to tip their hat to help tackle Australia's national cancer – melanoma
19 Jan 2018

Toyota and country music fans invited to tip their hat to help tackle Australia's national cancer – melanoma

Melanoma Institute Australia has teamed up with the Toyota Country Music Festival 2018 in Tamworth!

Sun Protection: Facts and Controversies
18 Jan 2018

Sun Protection: Facts and Controversies

MIA's dermatologist shares her knowledge with GPs on debunking myths and controversies on sunscreen.

Shannan Ponton joins our March for a cure
17 Jan 2018

Shannan Ponton joins our March for a cure

Shannan Ponton thought he was invincible – he wasn’t. But his melanoma battle ended up saving more than his own life. 

Surprising finding in rare form of melanoma get patients closer to personalised medicine
11 Jan 2018

Surprising finding in rare form of melanoma get patients closer to personalised medicine

Researchers have demonstrated that immunotherapy is highly effective in treating a rare form of melanoma – a result that is surprising due to the nature of the tumour.  

Using new technology to prevent melanoma
14 Dec 2017

Using new technology to prevent melanoma

Innovation is helping to prevent melanoma developing in the first place.

Research review of 2017
12 Dec 2017

Research review of 2017

Research from MIA is changing the way melanoma is managed worldwide and improving patient survival. Here are a few of our key highlights from this year.

Translational research funding boost
24 Nov 2017

Translational research funding boost

A prestigious Fellowship has been awarded to fund research that will change the way melanoma treatment is assessed in the future.

New research to guide clinicians to more accurately stage and manage melanoma patients
16 Nov 2017

New research to guide clinicians to more accurately stage and manage melanoma patients

New research from MIA has been published that forms the basis of the updated international guidelines for staging melanoma.

Founding father recognised for outstanding cancer care
15 Nov 2017

Founding father recognised for outstanding cancer care

Professor William McCarthy AM has been awarded the Tom Reeve Award for Outstanding Contributions to Cancer Care.

Melanoma researchers shine at the State's premier cancer awards ceremony
03 Nov 2017

Melanoma researchers shine at the State's premier cancer awards ceremony

Leading researchers from MIA have been acknowledged with three prestigious awards for excellence in melanoma research.

Enhancing melanoma treatment response through gut bacteria
03 Nov 2017

Enhancing melanoma treatment response through gut bacteria

New research shows that patients who are more likely to respond to immunotherapy treatment have a greater diversity in their gut bacteria.

Melanoma March is just around the corner!
01 Nov 2017

Melanoma March is just around the corner!

2018 will be bigger than ever, and a little bit different.

Comparing melanoma risk in similar populations across different latitudes
20 Oct 2017

Comparing melanoma risk in similar populations across different latitudes

MIA's epidemiologist explains her new research on how country of residence should be considered when identifying melanoma risk.

Congratulations to our Conjoint Medical Directors
19 Oct 2017

Congratulations to our Conjoint Medical Directors

Congratulations to our Conjoint Medical Directors, Professor Georgina Long and Professor Richard Scolyer, who have today been announced as Fellows of the Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences.

What causes melanoma in 90% of young Australians?
19 Oct 2017

What causes melanoma in 90% of young Australians?

New research shows potentially deadly UV damage can appear decades earlier than you think.

Early lymph node check is saving lives in melanoma patients
19 Oct 2017

Early lymph node check is saving lives in melanoma patients

Early lymph node check is saving lives in melanoma patients

Congratulations to Associate Professor Anne Cust
13 Oct 2017

Congratulations to Associate Professor Anne Cust

We are pleased to announce that A/Prof Anne Cust is the new President of the Australasian Epidemiological Association.

Smoking linked to increased risk of melanoma spreading
12 Oct 2017

Smoking linked to increased risk of melanoma spreading

New research has shown that melanoma patients who smoke have an increased risk of their disease progressing compared to patients who do not smoke.

Research boost to improve outcomes for melanoma patients
11 Oct 2017

Research boost to improve outcomes for melanoma patients

More than $3.5 million in competitive funding grants have been awarded to MIA's researchers.

Highlights in melanoma research from ESMO
21 Sep 2017

Highlights in melanoma research from ESMO

The ESMO conference provided a platform for announcing a number of key melanoma research findings - including practice-changing research from MIA.