Tony Porter has always been reasonably fit. Living in Hornsby with his family, the stockbroker and former cricketer and rugby player has run several triathlons, competed in an Iron Man competition or two, and today runs a weekly boxing class.
A keen cyclist, Tony once cycled 200km in honour of his son who’d been diagnosed with cancer. The ride, known as the Ride to Conquer Cancer, was to raise money for the then-unfinished Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. Little did Tony know that he’d one day be receiving treatment there.
The troubles started with an enlarged lymph node, thought to be caused by a small skin cancer Tony had cut out of his cheek several years earlier. The lump was removed, and after an intensive course of radiation, Tony was cancer free. That soon changed.
In 2017, a routine scan showed tumours in Tony’s lungs. There were five in total – one in his hamstring, one in his neck, and three in his chest. It wasn’t melanoma, as his doctors had previously thought – Tony had a rare form of soft tissue sarcoma.
“I had trouble walking upstairs, I was coughing up blood… I was in a fair bit of trouble,” says Tony.
Chemotherapy wasn’t working. The tumours were still growing, and some had spread.
“They gave me three options. Two of them were more chemo, and the third was a clinical trial. I took that option.”
Mr Porter enrolled in a trial for INCMGA00012, a type of immunotherapy. The drug is a PD-1 inhibitor, which increases the body’s immune reaction to the cancer.
“I had read a fair bit about immunotherapy. The very first day I met Professor Tattersall, I asked him about it, and he helped to find the trial,” says Tony.
His health, he says, was immediately and dramatically better.
“The tumour on my neck was gone after about three treatments,” he says. He experiences very few side effects – a sharp contrast to his time on chemotherapy. “I now have scans every three months, and every scan has shown that the tumours have shrunk.”
Today, Tony heads to Lifehouse once a fortnight for check-ups and treatment. “I’m part of the furniture,” he laughs. Strangely, he says, he actually looks forward to coming.
“I’m appreciative of the opportunity to be on a trial. It means the world, because I probably wouldn’t be here without it.”
Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is the largest cancer clinical trials unit in NSW. Read more about current and recent clinical trials in our Research Report.