Anthea was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2000. She has been in a randomised trial of treatment with interferon and is now in a phase 1 trial of a combination of drugs which attack the DNA of cancer cells.
Anthea was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2000 after noticing a black mark on her toe nail. Her toe was amputated and for four years she was fine, till she noticed a lump in her groin. This was operated on and she remained clear for another 11 months until another lump appeared. This time her consultant felt it was faster-growing than they had expected, and invited her to take part in a randomised controlled trial, comparing the standard four weeks of injections of interferon with a whole year of injections, three times a week. Anthea agreed to take part, hoping that she would be allocated to the group having the whole year of treatment, which she was. Her feeling was that she wanted to do everything she could to treat the condition. If she had been allocated to the group receiving standard treatment she thinks she would have felt disappointed, and then if a lump came back she would always have wondered what would have happened if she had been in the other group.
She felt tired and had mild flu-like symptoms throughout the year of the trial, but managed to carry on working. With only four weeks to go she almost felt like giving up, but she carried on – having come that far she felt she should keep going, especially if it might help other people with the condition in future. Anthea describes herself as a positive person who never gives up, despite many setbacks in her life. She is willing to try anything that may help treat her melanoma.
Anthea remained well for another two years, but in 2007 discovered another lump. This time she was offered the chance to take part in a trial of Taxol (paclitaxel) combined with another drug. This was not a randomised trial. Anthea had two out of the six planned treatments, but her doctors felt it was not working for her so it was stopped. By this time she had lost all her hair, and it was quite unpleasant, but she would have carried on taking it if it had worked. After this, she was at first told there were no more suitable trials, so she would have the next standard treatment, dacarbazine. Shortly afterwards, she was told there was a new phase one trial she could join, combining dacarbazine with another drug. Dacarbazine is an ankylating agent, which attacks the DNA of the cancer cell and stops it regrowing. The additional drug attacks an enzyme which normally helps the cancer cell repair its DNA. So far Anthea is delighted with the results; four of her five tumours have shrunk. She understands she is the only person so far on the trial to get as far as having ten out of the planned twelve treatments.