Rick's Story

Rick's Story

14 July 2016

Growing up on the beach and surfing since the age of just three, Rick de Leede regrettably disregarded sun-awareness campaigns.

More than 18 months ago, he was diagnosed with advanced melanoma and told by doctors “there’s not a lot more we can do for you”.

Determined not to give up, Rick decided to sign up to a ground-breaking trial at Melanoma Institute Australia – a decision that has saved his life. He moved from Byron Bay to Bondi just to be closer to the Institute.

The 57-year-old joined the Keynote-029 trial at MIA that combines the immunotherapy drugs ipilimumab and pembrolizumab. These drugs boost the body’s own immune system to fight the cancer cells.

After only one treatment, several tumours in Rick’s chest had shrunk. After just three months of treatment, scans showed a “complete response”, meaning that his tumours were gone.

“I feel very much like the trial has saved my life,” says Rick, and describes the staff at the Institute as his “guardian angels”.

Melanoma research has come a long way in recent years which has resulted in life-saving treatment options becoming available.

Surgery was traditionally the primary option for treatment of melanoma. Over the past five years, the use of surgery plus additional treatments, like immunotherapies, has significantly extended life expectancy in people with advanced disease.

“Five years ago, someone like Rick would have survived six to 12 months—that was par for the course for someone with advanced melanoma,” said Professor Georgina Long, medical oncologist at MIA and Principal Investigator for the trial.

“It used to be a death sentence and now I have clinics full of survivors.”

The use of pembrolizumab on its own has resulted in significant shrinkage of tumours in 40-45% of patients with advanced melanoma. By combining the two drugs, as was done in the Keynote-029 trial, results have shown an even greater response: 57% of patients on the trial have had significant shrinkage of their tumours.

Rick has an incredibly positive attitude towards his future now and credits this ground-breaking trial and the team at MIA for giving him a new lease on life.

(Image courtesy of Wentworth Courier)