When Bev Snedden found a lump on her right cheek five years ago she never imagined she would help researchers unlock the key to treating early stage lymphoma.
The Ashtonfield woman took one of the final places in an international clinical trial that looked at the benefits of using radiotherapy and immuno-chemotherapy in stage one and two low-grade follicular lymphoma patients.
The TROG Cancer Research and the Australasian Leukaemia and Lymphoma Group trial started in 2000.
The results, which were released last week, show the use of both treatments doubles the patient’s remission time.
Patients who receive radiotherapy and immuno-chemotherapy are expected to live 10 years without a relapse. Those who only receive radiotherapy, which is the standard treatment, usually relapse within five years.
“I could have not been here now, with radiation alone the odds of it coming back again somewhere else in the body is pretty high. I know I wont die from this.”
Ms Snedden, then 57, had 15 radiotherapy sessions and six cycles of immuno-chemotherapy drugs Cyclophosphamide, Vincristine, Prednisolone (CVP) and Rituximab in 2012.
She has been cancer free for four years.
“To myself I described the CVP and Rituximab drugs as a search and kill all bad B-cells in my body and then my body would make good B-cells,” she said.
Australian Trial Co-Chair and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre Radiation Oncologist, Professor Michael MacManus, said the results would immediately inform every discussion about treatment across the globe.
He said radiation could initially cure most patients but the slow-growing disease would eventually return in the body and kill the patient.
“No group anywhere in the world has ever managed to complete a trial comparing radiotherapy alone with radiotherapy and multi-agent chemotherapy or immuno-chemotherapy before,” Professor MacManus said.
“The long natural history of the disease makes it very difficult to perform randomised trials in these patients, because it takes many years to know if their treatment has been effective.”