Margot Taylor, 75, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in October 2010.
“I had just returned from a holiday when I felt very tired, went to the doctor’s, had blood tests done and was told that I had multiple myeloma,” she said.
“I saw Dr Hang Quach here at St Vincent’s on a regular basis and she suggested that I go on to this trail, which I started 12 months ago today.”
Although this cancer of the plasma cells in bone marrow has no cure, it can usually be managed successfully for several years.
There is ongoing research which provides some patients the option of participation in clinical trials to test new ways of treating myeloma.
And St Vincent’s Cancer Centre is offering trials treating people who have multiple myeloma with drugs that are proven to work.
“When she first came to us she was extremely unwell and had lots of myeloma related complications,” St Vincent’s haematologist Dr Hang Quach said of Margot’s condition in 2010.
But after 9 months of intensive treatment, Margot was declared to be in complete remission and is only coming to the Cancer Centre once a month now for maintenance therapy.
“Yes, I am in complete remission now and started to have progress even from 2 or 3 cycles in,” she said.
“I cannot speak highly enough of Dr Hang. The knowledge that she has got is absolutely amazing. And the way she treats her patients… you could ring her at any time, day or night, and she would take your call.”
Dr Hang says with results like this, the future is looking bright because there are a number of very effective medications helping to increase the survival of patients with myeloma.
“The main problem that we have in Australia is that we can’t access those medications under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme despite the fact that they are available,” Dr Hang said.
“These medications are very expensive and for them to be listed under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will take years. And so one way we can give our patients cutting-edge medication is by getting them to participate in clinical trials.”
Dr Hang wants patients to know that there are these types of clinical trials on offer improving people’s quality of life and says there is a need to dispel misconceptions about clinical trials.
“Some people think that if you are in a clinical trial you are a guineapig, that is not so. We are talking about trials with drugs that are already proven to work. We do the trials because we want to know how well the drugs work.” she said.
Each year in Australia around 1,500 people are diagnosed with myeloma.