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
We sat down for a short Q&A with our Clinical Research Fellow Sangeetha Ramanujam.
Today marks International Clinical Trials Day held on May 20 each year celebrating how far clinicians have come in the field of research.
We sat down with MIA Practice Manager, Sherrie D'Souza and got an insight into the day of life of her role.
Dr Long was nomitated for the InStyle Women In Style Awards in the Science and Environment category.
The Federal Government’s 2015-16 Budget was announced this week with a boost for medical research funding.
The Association's members include prominent surgeons from around the world.
MIA leads the world-first study that finds anti–PD-1 antibody pembrolizumab increases the survival of patients
This is a landmark study, the first in a class of drugs that will change the future of treatment for all cancers.
Australia is the first country in the world to register anti-PD1 for the first line treatment of unresectable or metastatic melanoma in adults.
We have a winner!
Professor John Thompson, Executive Director at Melanoma Institute Australia, was one of 116 fellows appointed to the new Australian Academy of Health and Medical Sciences at a ceremony in Canberra on the 25th March.
Federal Minister for Health, the Hon. Sussan Ley, announced more than $14 million in funding for a research program to study the molecular determinants of risk, progression and treatment response in melanoma.
If you would like to download a bib for your Melanoma March, we have a selection for you to choose from, print and bring along with you on the day.
Manly Melanoma March has changed to a new location.
We did a short Q&A with two sisters who are raising funds for Melanoma March after sadly losing their mother in 2009. This is their second march and they have shared with us their fundraising tips.
We want to share with you what your valuable Melanoma March donation and fundraising goes towards and our Research Director, Graham Mann explains the national research project the funds will be going towards.
Evaluation of Groin Lymphadenectomy Extent for Metastatic Melanoma (EAGLE FM) clinical trial has recruited its first patient.
You are invited to provide comments for consideration by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC). The PBAC will consider the registration of the anti-PD1 drug, Keytruda (pembrolizumab) at the next meeting in March.
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.
Melanoma Institute Australia (MIA) has officially launched the 2015 ‘Melanoma March’ initiative in Melbourne.