Brad McDonald’s melanoma tumours were so aggressive, nothing could stop them – until he joined the pembrolizumab trial running at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, as part of a global trial involving nearly 1,000 people.
For him, the results were dramatic. The Tasmania-based drug and alcohol counsellor and volunteer has seen his tumours disappear.
In his case, one of the drug’s side effects, however, has been as strong as his reaction.
“My joints swell and I find it difficult to move. I can’t open a jar.
For someone who loves horse-riding, sky diving, surfing and is a Taekwando fourth Dan Black Belt, his life has changed dramatically.
He has found, however, that acupuncture helps him.
“If I haven’t had acupuncture, I can’t pull up my socks.
“When I first get here (to Lifehouse) I have to walk upstairs one foot onto the stair, then the other foot next to it before I can take another step.
“But then after I have acupuncture here, I can sprint up the steps! I just can’t believe how much of a change after just one session.”
“I often have patients who ask how acupuncture might work,” says Lifehouse acupuncturist Dr Suzanne Grant. “Firstly, there is a simple local response. The needle insertion triggers chemical responses. For example it activates our immune system (including mast cells and macrophages) which release triggers that bring more blood flow and dilate the blood vessels to the area being needled. When I rotate the acupuncture needle extensive fibroblast are spread. Fibroblasts are the most common of connective tissue cells and play an important role in healing. Stimulating acupuncture points also enables signals to start the flow of pain-killing biochemicals, such as endorphins.”
“It’s always good to see Brad click his fingers after a treatment.”
A recent analysis of acupuncture for pain, involving nearly 18,000 patients and doctors from eight universities and hospitals in the UK, the US and Germany, found that in conditions such as arthritis, back pain and chronic headache, acupuncture was twice as effective as the drugs and exercise recommended by most doctors.