Sixty-seven year-old Gary Wilkie, part-owner of champion racehorse, Black Caviar, is forever grateful he got to experience the horse’s spectacular racing journey – something he may not have been able to enjoy reflecting on if it wasn’t for his participation in an innovative clinical trial.
A false start
After being diagnosed with melanoma in 2012, Gary had his lump removed and was declared cancer-free – however five years later the cancer returned.
“I’d been feeling absolutely exhausted after an 8-week overseas holiday in November 2017. I assumed it was just jetlag, but then I found a lump in my groin. One month later, I had a confirmed diagnosis of stage four metastatic melanoma.
“Because of the seriousness of the cancer, I was lucky enough to get in straight away for my immunotherapy treatment. My wife and I agreed that when it came to treatment, I wouldn’t do anything out of the box – in fact, I was actually convinced by several people not to participate in a clinical trial.”
A life-saving change of heart
Despite his insistence on traditional treatments, less than two weeks after his diagnosis Gary found himself registering to be a participant in an exciting new clinical trial.
“I’m not even sure what changed my mind. One minute I was swearing off them to my oncologist and then I was enrolled in one. Looking back now though, it was the best decision I had ever made.”
During the first three weeks of the clinical trial Gary received an infusion of immunotherapy as well as the trial therapy delivered as an injection into the lump in his groin, which may have consisted of a locally acting immune booster or a placebo.
“My results were staggering, even after the first injection. After less than 8 months my doctors felt that I’d responded so well to treatment that I was able to head overseas for an 8-week getaway. They even suspended my immunotherapy while I was overseas – which reassured me that I was doing well.”
During his treatment Gary had no invasive surgery, only one injection directly into the tumour in his groin followed by his immunotherapy every three weeks for 2 years
A champion result
Gary has now been cleared and cancer free for nearly 2 years.
“It has been an outstanding result. I have a CT scan every 90 days and a PET scan every 6 months.”
“I found that cancer not only takes its toll on the person diagnosed with it but also those surrounding them on their journey. Realistically at the end of the day you either die or you get better and that was very tough for my wife and I to grapple with.
“The choice to take part in a clinical trial saw me being treated by some of the absolute best in the world. I didn’t know it at the time, but that split-second decision saved my life. Or as they say in racing, “I pulled the right reins”.
“I cannot not stress enough: if you think something isn’t right, get it checked as soon as possible. And ask your doctor or specialist about clinical trials – they can be game changers!”