Groundbreaking clinical trial saves B.C. woman’s life

BC Cancer Foundation donors essential for current and future research

In the summer of 2017, Allison Kelly was living a full and active life. It wasn’t until she completed a strenuous back-country hike that the 36-year-old registered nurse started to notice a pain in her leg. Chalking it up to muscle soreness, Allison left for a lake getaway with her twin sister. It wasn’t long before she noticed her leg swelling.

Upon her return home, Allison made a visit to the hospital where they confirmed it was a blood clot.

Unbeknownst to her, that clot was the result of restricted blood flow due to a large ovarian tumour.

Allison’s life quickly became a blur of tests and appointments followed by immediate surgery to remove the mass. During surgery, the clinical team found evidence of further spread. After additional scans and pathology studies, Allison was diagnosed with Stage IV clear cell ovarian cancer.

On her 37th birthday, Allison received a call from BC Cancer to say that she met the criteria to participate in a groundbreaking clinical trial: Checkpoint Inhibitor Immunotherapy for patients with advanced disease for which there is no curative therapy.

Allison received her first dose of immunotherapy on Sept. 15, 2017. Six weeks later, her tumours had shrunk by an incredible 50 per cent.

Every scan thereafter showed continued shrinkage, and 18 months later a PET scan showed “no evidence of disease.”

Allison hopes her story inspires others who may be facing a similar situation.

“Participating in this trial is my way of helping other women who will face this diagnosis, by providing hope that outcomes like mine are possible,” she says. “I am living proof that the research being done in immunotherapies at BC Cancer is working.”

Dr. Anna Tinker, Allison’s medical oncologist at BC Cancer, specializes in the treatment of gynecological cancers. She says the support of BC Cancer Foundation donors is an important catalyst in fuelling current and future research.

“Without donor support I think many of the successes we’ve seen would not have occurred,” she says. “We’re on the brink of some major changes and advances in the treatment, detection and prevention of women with gynecologic cancers and continued support helps ensure they can move forward.”

Despite the challenges we’re facing at this time, cancer won’t stop. The BC Cancer Foundation won’t stop either and is committed to changing the outcome for the 5,545 British Columbians this year who will be diagnosed with a women’s cancer, like Allison.

While her check ups with Dr. Tinker may look a little different these days as most have gone virtual, Allison continues to receive world-class care at BC Cancer where her treatments are administered every four weeks.

“Thanks to BC Cancer, I have a future,” says Allison. “I don’t know what it will look like, but I know it involves living life to the fullest.”

To learn how you can help, please visit www.bccancerfoundation.com

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