Leopold's story

Labs clinical trials

Leopold, a member of London’s Orthodox Jewish Community, was 49 when he was diagnosed with stage IV lymphoma in 1998 and was shocked to be told he would be ‘lucky’ to survive 10 years. After standard-line treatments stopped working, he joined a clinical trial. Now, 23 years after his initial diagnosis and feeling healthier than ever despite having lived with cancer, he talks about the clinical trial that saved his life and what cancer survivorship means to him.

For years following his diagnosis of stage IV lymphoma - a type of blood cancer that affects white blood cells called lymphocytes, Leopold, on the advice of his consultant, had been on active surveillance – otherwise known as the ‘watch and wait’ approach to see how his cancer would develop. However, in 2007 he was referred to Professor Anthony Goldstone, then a Consultant Haematologist at both University College Hospital and HCA Healthcare UK, for active treatment. 

“When I met Professor Goldstone, he took a very proactive approach to treating my lymphoma,” says Leopold. “In my time under Professor Goldstone’s care, I underwent intensive treatments including rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant. These treatments made my cancer quiet for five years, but in 2012 the cancer reared its head and came back to life again.”

At this point, Professor Goldstone gave Leopold three rounds of more intensive treatment than before, but unfortunately Leopold’s cancer was not responsive. 

A new way of treating Leopold's cancer

Having exhausted all standard therapy options, Professor Goldstone spoke to Leopold about joining a clinical trial. It was in his view the best option for Leopold against a cancer which had resisted all other treatments. “The prospect of a clinical trial was a daunting one,” says Leopold. “It meant that there was nothing more than conventional medicine could do to treat my cancer. But I agreed that this option was worth exploring – and thank goodness I did.”

Leopold was referred to Professor Tobias Arkenau, Consultant Medical Oncologist at the Sarah Cannon Research Institute, HCA Healthcare UK’s clinical trials unit. This research institute is a leading clinical trials facility, specialising in the development of new therapies and precision medicine for cancer patients.

On his first lengthy meeting with Professor Arkenau, Leopold learnt more about the trials process and which one would be most suitable for him. After careful consideration and full understanding that while there was evidence that the medicine could help manage his cancer, it was not guaranteed, Leopold, after discussing his options with those nearest and dearest to him, decided to go ahead with the clinical trial. Initially, he was given two tablets a day, under close supervision; “The timings of when I took the tablets, the amount given and any gaps between the doses were carefully recorded, as well as any reaction that my body had to the treatment,” recalls Leopold. This was eventually reduced to one tablet a day.

“During the first few months of the clinical trial it was quite intense as I would visit the hospital every two weeks to be monitored and to review the effect the tablets were having. However, as the trial went on, these check-ups moved to monthly and then three- and six-monthly. I was surprised and relieved at how little time I had to spend at Sarah Cannon after I had got past the first few months.” 

Living with cancer and survivorship

Months turned into years and now a decade on, Leopold is on the same medication, which has successfully kept his cancer from returning. “I have been taking the same tablet now, once a day for almost ten years and, gratefully, it has kept my cancer at bay,” says Leopold. “I’ve had one scare in this time, where my PET CT scan showed something concerning and my monitoring was increased, but in fact it transpired that it was just me reacting to a chest infection. I’ve also had no side effects to the medication at all – which was surprising as I was warned it could cause tiredness as well as other possible reactions. To my friends and family, I refer to the tablet as a magic tablet, a gift from above – which has without a doubt saved my life.”

Cancer survivorship means different things to different people. While Leopold is still on active treatment and living with cancer, his feelings towards it are very different. “Medical professionals have told me that my cancer is dormant, but to me I don’t consider myself as someone who has cancer anymore,” adds Leopold. “I’m now 71 years old and feel so incredibly grateful to be living a healthy and active life 23 years after my initial diagnosis. I feel as if I’ve almost been given more than I deserve – especially so when others haven’t been as fortunate as me.” 

“All these years on, I am living a normal life with no restrictions. I’m still working occasionally at our family dairy business and I enjoy spending valuable time with my family – especially my wonderful grandchildren. I often have flashbacks to that initial diagnosis, and it makes me so thankful that I was able to receive such an amazing level of care from Professor Goldstone, Professor Arkenau and the entire team at Sarah Cannon.”

Learn more about clinical trials service at HCA Healthcare UK

This content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.
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