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Royal Free's pioneering cancer treatment could save my life

PUBLISHED: 12:49 14 August 2008 | UPDATED: 15:18 07 September 2010

By Tan Parsons A Kentish Town fashion designer s life has been saved by pioneering treatment at the Royal Free and a blood donation from her daughter. Joanne Scott, 53, had been given just eight months to live after chemotherapy on her leukaemia failed an

By Tan Parsons

A Kentish Town fashion designer's life has been saved by pioneering treatment at the Royal Free and a blood donation from her daughter.

Joanne Scott, 53, had been given just eight months to live after chemotherapy on her leukaemia failed and a bone marrow match could not be found.

But thanks to the development of 'natural cancer killing cells' at the Hampstead hospital and blood taken from her daughter Tara, she is back at home in Lady Margaret Road and making a dramatic recovery.

"It's quite nice to think I might go down as the first person in history to do something like this - especially if it turns out to be a real breakthrough in the treatment of cancer. That would be fantastic," said Ms Scott, whose fashion label Tara Starlet is available in high street shops.

"I suppose that in some way it has changed my outlook on life. It's made me want to do more. It's made me a bit braver.

"You look at how trivial it is when people complain about the smallest things - but I'm sure I'll be stressed about something that doesn't really matter before too long."

The 'natural killer cells' were activated in a laboratory before being transfused into Ms Scott's body. Doctors hope they will survive in her system and kill the cancer.

Doctors injected 57million of the treated cells into her body on July 31 and after a week they had multiplied to 137million. It will be several months before doctors can say with certainty whether the treatment has worked.

"It was a bit scary at first because it is a pioneering procedure and I wondered what complications there might be," said Ms Scott.

"I'd just relapsed for the third time and it was just good timing with the trial. My consultant Panos Kottaridis said, 'Right, we're going to fight this' and told me there was this clinical trial I would be perfect for."

Ms Scott has thanked the Royal Free and Dr Kottaridis for their help and also paid tribute to her daughter, who overcame her fear of needles to help.

Tara, 21, an anthropology student at Goldsmith's University, said that before the cells were taken she "lived like a monk" trying to make sure she was as healthy as possible.

"I felt if I ate one wrong thing or had one glass of wine that would affect my cells and then it would be my fault if something went wrong," she said.

"This gave me the opportunity to feel like I could be helpful, whereas before I had just felt completely helpless. I really hope that everything goes well and that everyone else who does the trial has success."

Speaking about the trial, Dr Kottaridis said: "We hope this form of immunotherapy will enable us to understand a bit better the way modern treatments work and might act as a platform for future studies in this and other types of cancer.

"We hope for positive results. But this is an experimental treatment and we will need enough data before we can draw meaningful conclusions."

The treatment was made possible by funding from the Leukaemia Research Fund.

Other pioneering surgeons at the Royal Free are preparing to carry out Britain's first voicebox transplant and the hospital's Professor Peter Butler has already been given permission to carry out the world's first full face transplant within the next year.

tan.parsons@hamhigh.co.uk


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