UHNM was able to recruit the highest number of patients nationally to a clinical trial for the life-extending cancer drug Lenalidomide.More than 100 patients signed up for the ‘Myeloma XI’ trial in 2011 and many continue to be in remission.
Lenalidomide is used to treat patients with multiple myeloma – a form of blood cancer – and has recently been approved by NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) based on the outcome of the Myeloma XI trial.
Around 5,800 people are diagnosed with multiple myeloma every year in Britain. Whilst some survive for several years, myeloma cannot be cured.
Myeloma XI is the largest trial conducted in myeloma to date, with more than 4000 participants in total. Lenalidomide has been found to almost double the length of time patients spent in remission and also improves the overall rate of survival.
Dr Kamaraj Karunanithi, Director of Research and Innovation at UHNM, said: “Whilst myeloma cannot be cured there is so much research continuing to happen in this area, particularly in relation to the advent of new drugs. By participating in clinical trials people have the opportunity to receive these treatments early and many did in this clinical trial. More than that, it paves the way for future change in the standard of care for people suffering with this incurable cancer. This trial is a very good example of that.
“At UHNM we are looking to open many more clinical trials, not only for cancer but for various other conditions. Our aim is to bring research to the forefront of patient care and to deliver exceptional care to the people of Staffordshire.”
Multiple myeloma affects the production of plasma cells in the bone marrow and in turn impacts the body’s immune system. It is characterised by a ‘relapsing-remitting’ pattern, which means the disease goes through periods where the cancer is active and needs treatment, followed by periods where it is under control.
63-year-old retired commercial director Malcolm Scovell, of Nantwich, first became ill with myeloma in December 2014 and was rushed to hospital on Christmas Eve. He is now in remission after taking part in the trial.
Malcolm said: “It was the end of the year and I had just been speaking at our annual sales conference. The next day I felt terrible and within a few days I was taken to hospital. I ended up in intensive care on a ventilator, suffering from numerous infections. When I woke up, they told me I had myeloma.
“I met Dr Karunanithi soon after and he explained to me that I was very ill, but had the chance to take part in the trial. At first I was a little hesitant because I’d never really had anything wrong with me other than the odd broken bone. But I thought about it for a bit and in the end, went for it.
“I’ve been on Lenalidomide for about six years now and I’m in pretty good shape. You learn to manage the ups and downs of treatment and to work with the situation rather than against it. It’s really important to have a positive attitude too, I try not to waste any more than fifteen seconds on asking “Why me?”. And you have to accept there are times when you’ll feel better and times when you just have to rest. Looking back now I’m so glad I decided to take part in the trial. To see it become the ‘gold standard’ treatment for this condition and be made available to help others is fantastic. Knowing I had a share in that makes me feel good.”
Malcolm enjoys going for walks with wife Tricia and doing woodwork in his garden workshop. He has been shielding for the past year and is now looking forward to playing golf and meeting up with friends.
59-year-old college lecturer Roger Sharman, of Clayton, was diagnosed with myeloma six years ago and is also now in remission following the trial.
Roger said: “I had never even heard of myeloma, so it was a big shock to be diagnosed. At first we were really worried and were thinking about all the worst case scenarios, but then I was given the chance to take part in the trial. It seemed the best way to go and I felt I had nothing to lose, so I just went for it.
“Before I started on Lenalidomide, I had intensive treatment to target the myeloma and this caused me difficulties with breathing. Myeloma also affects your blood levels and reduces haemoglobin, so I had no energy. The Lenolidamide maintenance therapy helped to keep me in a stable condition. I’ve been on it for five years now and have completed 60 cycles. The condition is more manageable, so that feels really good and reassuring. I feel better than I did before and I have more confidence and peace of mind. Every time I’ve been checked, my blood levels have been good.
“I’ve received so much attention from the hospital and although I don’t want to be ill, if I have to have it, I feel I’m in the best place.”
Roger and his wife Bev enjoy short walks, weekend breaks away and say they are looking forward to spending more time with their family when Covid restrictions lift.