Cancer patient given just six months to live but is still alive 40 years later

Press Release Posted 25 June 2015

A cancer patient, who was given just six months to live 40 years ago, is still going strong and looking forward to celebrating her 81st birthday this year, thanks to a life-saving clinical trial.

Wife and mother of three, Tina Poulton, from Stockport, was first diagnosed with cancer in 1975 when she attended her local hospital where she worked as a district midwife, to have an appendix abscess removed. During a pre-operative investigation, her surgeon discovered she had ovarian cancer.

Initially Tina's consultant recommended a hysterectomy to remove all visible cancer, however when surgeons started her operation they discovered the cancer had spread throughout her pelvis and decided that a hysterectomy would no longer be an effective treatment.

Doctors told Tina and her devastated family that the outlook was bleak and that 'she wouldn't make it to Christmas'.

Tina's daughter Susan, who was 16 when the cancer diagnosis was made, said:

"It was a horrible and frightening experience for me and my two brothers to hear that our mother was going to die, and to see our parents so distraught."

Tina said: "It was enough of a shock to be told I had cancer, but to be told I had six months to live was incomprehensible.

"I was devastated, but I wasn't having any of it, no-one was going to tell me when I was going to die and so I told my consultant I wasn't going to let this disease beat me and that I'd like a second opinion. I told him to refer me to The Christie."

Tina was then referred to the specialist cancer centre in Manchester where her consultant, Professor Derek Crowther told her: "We'll try one treatment and if that doesn't work, we'll try something else and if that doesn't work, then we'll try something else."

Tina's first treatment at The Christie was a two year clinical trial drug. However her cancer responded so well and so quickly to the treatment that after just 18 months, her consultant told her that her treatment had been successful and her cancer had gone. The drug, called Melphelan, was used for several decades after this time and has now been replaced by newer treatments.

Professor Crowther, who has since retired, said: "Tina's story is quite remarkable. Her ovarian cancer was successfully treated with a single agent chemotherapy drug. It has been a life changing experience for her and her family and she's now over 80 years old. The likelihood of her having a good life into her 90s is very promising."

Tina, who now lives in Norwich with her husband Alan, 80,added: "I felt very lucky and was over the moon when I was given the all clear. I can't thank the staff at The Christie enough for their care and for not giving up on me. Without The Christie I wouldn't have had the joy of watching my children grow up, seeing my 10 grandchildren grow up, and just last year I became a great grandmother and another is on the way.

"I would urge other cancer sufferers to never give up. Cancer is an illness, and not always a death sentence. You've got to fight - I beat cancer and am living a wonderful, long life because I refused to give up.

"Hearing that you have cancer is devastating, but if you allow that devastation to consume you, you will ultimately lose hope and give up the fight.

"The key to a long, healthy and happy life is to stay positive, to live life for the moment and to stop worrying about things you can't change. If ever you fall ill, take it in your stride, accept the treatment and never, ever give up."

Professor Gordon Jayson and his colleagues now look after women with ovarian cancer at The Christie. He said: "The 1970s saw the introduction of the first effective chemotherapy drugs for ovarian cancer. As a result of Professor Crowther's research and subsequent trials carried out around the world, patients can now be treated with many different and effective drug combinations."

Today, around 400 clinical trials may be taking place at any one time at The Christie.

For more information or to ask about a clinical trial at The Christie, please contact information.clinicaltrials@christie.nhs.uk

The Christie's clinical trials unit opened in 2010 in a £35m building that also houses a chemotherapy unit and private patients' suite. The Christie charity funded £10m towards the unit.

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