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Clinical trial a 'godsend' for Blackpool great-grandad

Earlier in the year, we announced that local cancer patients would be among the first to access some of the newest cancer treatments in the world, thanks to charitable funding.

Rosemere gave the National Institute for Health Research - Lancashire Clinical Research Facility (LCRF) over £80,000 to fund a Specialist Experimental Medicines Cancer Research Nurse for the next two years, to deliver early phase experimental medicine research trials. The trials will be based at Royal Preston Hospital, for patients from across Lancashire and the South Lakes who are failing to respond to their treatment. The Research Nurse position was filled by former chemotherapy and cancer nurse specialist Karen Jones, who began working at the LCRF in 2018 as a Rosemere Cancer Foundation funded Oncology Research Co-ordinator.

Geoff Eastens Now, we are delighted to tell you about one of her patients, Geoff Eastens, who is benefiting from the trials!

The 67-year-old great-grandad from Blackpool was accepted on to a clinical trial researching a new treatment for prostate cancer. He has become part of the worldwide GALAHAD study, an arm of which is currently running here at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. 

The study is trialling a tablet treatment made by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, part of Johnson & Johnson, called niraparib. It is being trialed in men whose prostate cancer has spread despite treatment, and who have the BRCA gene - a gene that puts them more at risk, and can increase the likelihood of breast and ovarian cancer in women.

 Until he was accepted on the trial arm in Preston, Geoff was unaware he was carrier of the gene.

Geoff, who is married to Marianne with whom he has two daughters, five grandchildren, and a baby great granddaughter, said: “Being diagnosed with prostate cancer came as a total shock to me.

“I was at the doctor’s for a medicines review and happened to mention that I had to get up three or four times a night to go to the toilet.  I had a blood test to check my PSA levels. I thought nothing of it until two days later, the surgery rang to say I had prostate cancer.”

Geoff, who was aged 62 at the time, was sent to Rosemere Cancer Centre, the region’s specialist cancer treatment centre also at the Royal Preston Hospital, for radiotherapy treatment. He underwent 38 radiotherapy sessions over seven weeks. He was then prescribed chemotherapy in tablet form.

When his consultant at Blackpool Victoria Hospital discovered his PSA levels (Prostate Specific Antigen, a protein, which is raised in men with prostate cancer) were not dropping as expected and that Geoff’s cancer had started to spread to his bones, Geoff was put on a course of intravenous chemotherapy drugs.

Geoff said: “Up until then, I wasn’t aware of just how aggressive my cancer was. Initially, the drip chemo worked but then it stopped working so they tried other chemo medicines but they weren’t successful either. By this time, my cancer was at stage 4, the most serious stage, and I was on morphine patches and other pain relief for the bone cancer. My consultant suggested the trial and checking to see if I was eligible to get on it.

“I had to undergo various tests and as part of these, I discovered I had the BRCA1 gene. I lost my mum to cancer when I was in my 20s and I have an aunt now recovering from breast cancer. I would like other people in my family to be tested for this gene because the earlier a cancer is caught, the better. I may have had my prostate cancer for some time before I had that initial blood test. Had I known I had the BRCA gene, I would have been more on my guard.”

Karen Jones, Oncology Research NurseNow six months in to treatment with niraparib, Geoff’s PSA levels have halved and his bone cancer is showing a similar improvement.

Geoff said: “The trial has been a godsend. Niraparib, which I take as a capsule three times a day, has given me my life back.

“Just at the start of the trial, I went to a party. I only stayed an hour because I felt so ill. I look at the photos of me there and I am grey with sunken eyes, dark circles and hollow cheeks. I look sick but now I look like I did before, which makes you feel better. My energy levels are good. From going weekly, I now just visit the research facility once a month. It’s a great place. You are made to feel so welcome and my research nurse Karen Jones is fantastic. Nothing is too much trouble. I would like to thank her and Rosemere Cancer Foundation, which funds her position.”

Geoff, who can remain on niraparib for as long as it continues to work for him, added: “Every 45 minutes, a man dies of prostate cancer in this country. I would urge any man who thinks he might have symptoms to get checked out. I would also say that if diagnosed, to ask about BRCA testing and to look at joining a trial. I am well aware that I am receiving a medicine now that I wouldn’t be able to have prescribed outside of the trial probably for years.”

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