Health Hero – Clinical Professor Saxon SmithOctober 27, 2023
AMA (NSW) Submission to the Special Commission of Inquiry into Healthcare FundingNovember 16, 2023
Pioneers in Melanoma Treatment & partners in the fight to save Professor Scolyer’s life
This Feel Good Friday we’re celebrating Health Heroes AMA (NSW) members Professor Richard Scolyer AO and Professor Georgina Long AO, Melanoma Institute Australia’s Co-Directors.
Prof. Scolyer and Prof. Long have worked as partners for many years on immunotherapy cancer treatment for melanoma, which boosts a patient’s immune system and assists the body to find and attack cancer cells. Their dedication to cancer research has saved thousands of lives and means melanoma is now a curable disease.
In June this year, Richard was suddenly diagnosed with an incurable brain cancer, glioblastoma IDH wild-type, which is usually fatal within six to nine months. His Co-Director Professor Long began researching glioblastoma, discovering a bleak landscape on immunotherapy clinical trials for the specific brain cancer. She said she felt obliged to try something ground breaking.
Rather than go down the usual path for glioblastoma treatment – radiotherapy and chemotherapy, they decided to try a world first experiment using their own specialty – immunotherapy.
It was extremely controversial, and the pair was met with initial resistance from the oncology community. They would not be put off and after conducting many hours of research and writing clinical letters, Professor Scolyer got the okay to be treated with immunotherapy. Richard is eligible to undergo this rare treatment because he is both a clinician and cancer researcher.
Within twelve days, early results were received, which Georgina described as nothing short of phenomenal. They found there was a 10-fold increase in the immune cells in the tumour, that they were activated against the cancer, and they were bound to the drug. While it is too early to say how these results will impact the prognosis for Richard, Georgina said they could not have hoped for better results.
Richard became the world’s first brain cancer patient to have pre-surgery combination immunotherapy. By undertaking an experimental treatment with the risk of shortening his life, he has advanced the understanding of brain cancer and is benefiting future patients.
Professor Scolyer and Professor Long have recently been announced as joint NSW 2024 Australian of the Year nominees. This nomination reflects their significant global leadership in making melanoma a largely treatable condition and thereby saving thousands of lives. Their remarkable dedication and intellectual contributions are evident in their pioneering work in utilising melanoma research to create ground breaking treatments for Richard’s brain cancer.