1 November 2019
An update on Paul - Your impact
‘Thank you for your kind words of support. It’s hard to believe that after initially facing only weeks to live, here I am some 18 months later still going strong.’
Before Christmas, we shared Paul’s survival story, and how groundbreaking science and research enabled him to survive advanced melanoma and meet his first grandson.
Paul’s treatment involved a combination of two immunotherapy drugs as well as whole-brain radiotherapy. Following his amazing response, MIA began further studies with the launch of the ABC-X clinical trial.
Thanks to the generosity of our MIA community, funds raised from the Christmas Appeal are supporting ongoing research to give other grandfathers like Paul a better chance of survival.
Every single donation brings us closer to achieving our mission of zero deaths from melanoma.
‘Your donations mean that people like me can experience the wonderful joy of having our family members still with us in the future. Thank you so much,’ said Paul’s wife Linda.
Paul Webb’s melanoma story began in 2014. A mole on his neck was bleeding and getting bigger. A biopsy from a local skin cancer specialist led to Paul being diagnosed with Stage II melanoma. After this distressing news, Paul had the melanoma removed by Melanoma Institute Australia surgeon Associate Professor Jonathon Stretch.
After a recurrence in 2016, Paul had more surgery followed by radiotherapy with radiation oncologist Professor Angela Hong. Paul was now cancer-free.
Then one day in June 2018, Paul fell over in the shower. He told his wife Linda that he wasn't feeling well. they immediately went to the hospital emergency department where he presented with headaches, confusion and trouble speaking.
Paul was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma. He had seven large melanoma metastases in his brain and five in his body.
Previously, patients with brain metastases usually survived only four to five months, and even less in those who had large tumours with symptoms.Given teh advanced nature of Paul's melanoma, his prognosis was grim.
“When I found out I had Stage IV melanoma the emotions were quite surreal. We couldn’t believe it. I seemed so well until I ended up in emergency. I had no idea how serious it was.”
A few days after Paul was diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma, he had emergency brain surgery after one of his melanomas caused a brain bleed and a stroke. He then started on a combination of two immunotherapies (nivolumab and ipilimumab) under the care of medical oncologist, Associate Professor Alexander Menzies along with whole brain radiotherapy with radiation oncologist Professor Angela Hong.
Paul’s treatment plan was inspired by the game changing discoveries from the world’s first Anti-PD1 Brain Collaboration (ABC) clinical trial in 2017. Results from this trial showed 49 percent of melanoma patients with brain metastases treated with the combination immunotherapy were still alive three years later. Historically, patients with brain metastases were not eligible to participate in clinical trials because their prognosis was so dire. This new treatment gives patients with advanced melanoma a fighting chance.
“Immunotherapy is an absolute game-changer for how we treat patients like Paul with advanced melanom which has spread to the brain...brain metastases are no longer a death sentence,” said medical oncologist, Associate Professor Alexander Menzies.
After immunotherapy, Paul was feeling very well. Some of the brain metastases had shrunk, but a new tumour appeared at the back of the brain, so he had targeted radiotherapy. All the tumours in his body had disappeared.
“After I was on the immunotherapy drugs for three months, I asked Associate Professor Menzies how do we know if it’s working? He said, 'We know it’s definitely working because if it wasn’t, you wouldn’t have survived more than a few weeks.’
This Christmas, some 18 months later, the Webb family will celebrate both Paul’s survival and the arrival of a new grandson.
“It’s just amazing that I’m going to be around to meet my grandson. So Christmas will be a real time of celebration for the family this year. I could have missed the birth of my grandson, but I’ll be there and I’ll be in his life.”
Paul is doing very well and Associate Professor Alexander Menzies is confident he is going to continue to do well into the future.
Paul’s story is a great example of how ground-breaking science and research can save a life and keep a family together despite a serious diagnosis and grim odds.