“Targeted treatment has saved my life – now I’m part of a clinical trial”

Following his thyroid cancer diagnosis, David has benefited from surgery and joining the NOMINATE trial at The Royal Marsden.

“In 2021 at the age of 56, I was diagnosed with metastatic medullary thyroid cancer – a rare type of thyroid cancer which had spread to my lungs and bones."

Headshot of a Royal Marsden patient in the Oak Cancer Centre. He is smiling and wearing a shirt with a knitted jumper
Royal Marsden patient, David

"The symptoms I’d been suffering from included aches and pains in my hips, legs, lower back and shoulders. I used to play golf, but it got to the point where I could only play if I took painkillers beforehand. I started to get stomach aches too. I’d had several visits to the GP who referred me to get scans done at my local hospital. After having some blood tests, I had a call to say that the test results were back and it wasn’t good news. That’s when they told me I had cancer, though at this time they hadn’t pinpointed exactly where the cancer was. It was such a shock.”

“Coming to The Royal Marsden once a month is saving my life”

David underwent surgery at his local hospital to remove his thyroid and surrounding tissue: “After surgery I learned that I was close to suffocating due to the size of the tumour. I managed to get home for Christmas Day, but I lost my voice for several months – I could barely talk, as the procedure was so near to my vocal cords. The aches and pains continued and I could only walk about 70–80 yards before I needed to sit down. For someone who usually walks five or six miles a day, this didn’t feel right at all.”

David was then referred to The Royal Marsden, where he was put under the care of Dr Kate Newbold. After initially being treated with an oral chemotherapy called Cabozantinib, David went on to have targeted radiotherapy. “Within a week, I was back up on my feet. The pain was completely gone, and it’s still gone now."

"I was moved onto an RET inhibitor – a type of genetic targeted therapy and I’m still on this treatment, taking two pills a day. I come to the Oak Cancer Centre in Sutton every few weeks to see the Head and Neck team for tests and monitoring. Coming to The Royal Marsden once a month is saving my life. It’s really nice being seen in such a clean, organised and lovely environment, which makes such a difference.”

The exterior of the Oak Cancer Centre on a sunny blue-skied day
The Oak Cancer Centre, which was funded by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity

Joining the NOMINATE trial

David is taking part in the NOMINATE trial, which is supported by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity. It is exploring the detection and analysis of circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) in the bloodstream of patients with advanced thyroid cancer to understand why some patients have more aggressive disease that does not respond to treatment.  

“The team take a few extra blood tests when I’m in the hospital as part of being on the NOMINATE trial. If by taking part on this trial helps improve understanding of the type of cancer I have and leads to new treatments, I’ll be very proud to have contributed towards it.”

“I wouldn’t be here without research”

“My latest CT scans show that everything is stable and my cancer isn’t progressing. The cancer marker levels in my blood are lower than they have ever been. I know that there’s research already taking place into the drug I’m on, so if and when this stops working, there are other options available. It’s fascinating to hear about things like immunotherapy and cellular therapies. The fact that there is a targeted drug to treat people like me is amazing. Without research, I wouldn’t have that and I don’t think I would have lasted long after being poorly again. Research is vital – it’s keeping me alive.

“I am now walking 3-4 miles a day, doing all my favourite DIY activities and generally am feeling so grateful to wake up every morning without any pain. Miracle is a strong word, but how I was feeling on some days before I came to The Royal Marsden, it feels like the right word. I feel very lucky and privileged to be a patient at this hospital.”

Help us support more world-leading research

The NOMINATE study is led by The International Centre for Recurrent Head & Neck Cancer (IReC), which is funded by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity thanks to the generous support of Charles Wilson and Dr Rowena Olegario plus Keith and Isabelle McDermott.

Donate today and help us to continue supporting The Royal Marsden in driving the development of new and improved ways of diagnosing and treating cancer.

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