David Day and a lifetime of missed moments
8 June 2018
“I couldn’t eat. Barely slept. I was the one to tell Dave it was all over. All Dave said was ‘my poor, poor babies’.” Jenny, David’s wife.
When David lost his life last year, he was 33, with three daughters under six.
David Day was one of the 20% of people with advanced melanoma have primary resistance to new drugs with ‘super progression' and we need to find out why.
The greatest challenge our clinicians currently face in treating melanoma is ‘super progression’.
Amid all our success stories, there is still a group of people with advanced melanoma for whom absolutely nothing works. About 20% of patients our medical oncologists see with advanced melanoma fall into this category.
Super progressors do not respond to existing treatments. Within a few short months, their disease progresses aggressively and relentlessly and we cannot save them.
David Day, was one such patient —a lovely young father with a wonderful family — who died last year.
The most agonising thing about patients like David is that at present, we just don’t know why they super progress.
Dr Inês Silva was part of the clinical team which treated David Day. She was studying at MIA as a Medical Oncology Fellow from Portugal. David had such a profound impact on Inês, that on completion of her Fellowship, she decided to stay on at MIA as a Research Scientist in an all-out attempt to find answers for super progressors.
Inês and the MIA research team collected blood and melanoma tissue samples from David during his treatment. They also collected similar samples from other advanced melanoma patients who have not responded to immunotherapy.
By studying the genomic profile and protein expression in each of these patients’ tumours, Ines and the MIA research team hope to understand why each drug failed to work, paving the way for new, and potentially life-saving therapies.
While there is some existing grant funding to cover her salary, a dedicated Research Scientist like Inês can’t do it alone.
We are relying on you and on the support of our donor community to collectively fund this research project including research assistants’ salaries, PhD student scholarship top-ups, equipment, and state-of-the-art research technologies such as DNA, RNA and cell sequencing. All are key to understanding and solving primary resistance and super progression.
David was a sweet, humble family man. He was a high-achiever, had forged an exceptional career as a computer engineer for Google and made a loving, happy life raising his three daughters Charlotte, 7, Emma, 5, and Annie, now 1, with his wife Jenny, his childhood sweetheart since Year 9.
Just before Christmas 2016, with Jenny heavily pregnant with little Annie, Dave found a lump under his left arm. He had Stage III melanoma. Half way through his treatment, David found another lump under his arm and a new tumour was discovered on his left hip. His melanoma had progressed to Stage IV.
In March 2017, David and Jenny were referred to Melanoma Institute Australia. He started on a clinical trial and at first, his scans looked promising.
After starting treatment, another painful melanoma appeared on David’s wrist. In the next three months, tumours sprang up in his spleen, lungs, pancreas, bones, under his skin — with up to 30 more in his liver. Even though immune cells were present, David was super progressing.
As the months passed, David suffered extreme pain, liver damage, rapid weight loss, blurred vision and internal bleeding. The clinical team switched to chemotherapy as a last resort and Annie’s christening was pushed forward.
On 25 August 2017, Jenny had the worst imaginable task of explaining to her soul mate that nothing more could be done for him.
“I was the one to tell him it was over. All he could say was “My poor, poor babies”. My heart ached. I had lost 15kg over the past five months from the stress of the whole situation. My milk dried up and I couldn’t feed Annie. It ate away at me while I put on a brave face for Dave and the kids,” says Jenny.
Jenny has very generously shared her painful story in the hope that it will help raise funds to crack the riddle of super progression.
Please give today to save someone you know from the ravages of melanoma in the future, and give them what David didn’t have- the opportunity to enjoy a lifetime of special moments with their loved ones.
Congratulations to Professor Richard Scolyer who was awarded the William O. Russell/Joanne Vandenberge Hill Award of Excellence in Pathology.
A Day in the Life Of... Serigne Lo, Research and BioStatistics Manager at Melanoma Institute Australia
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