Professor Ross McKinnon and Ryan
Ryan was 32, fit and healthy, and had never smoked a day in his life, when he was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer.
“The diagnosis came as a massive shock,” Ryan said. “We were actually waiting on my biopsy results when we found out my wife was pregnant with our first child.”
They were told his cancer was inoperable, but that Ryan was a candidate for targeted therapy through a ground-breaking clinical trial.
“When we found out we were able to go into targeted therapy treatment and realised we didn’t have to go onto chemo at that point, it was a massive relief,” Ryan said.
“I found my breathing improved within a couple of days and then five months later I went back in and I had another CT scan that showed the cancer had reduced by over 90 percent.
“The targeted therapy was really the key element that gave us a significant amount of time and that’s such a precious thing.”
Professor Ross McKinnon, Beat Cancer Professor at Flinders University and recipient of Cancer Council funding, said research was the reason why cancer survival rates had improved over recent years.
“It’s not that long ago, that in terms of drug therapy, all we really had to offer was chemotherapy,” he said.
“What we’re really trying to do is to learn how to use targeted therapies to get maximum benefit - that means the highest chance of efficacy and the lowest chance of toxicity.
“The positive in Ryan’s case is that the advances in drug therapy that have been achieved in the last decade or so, are enabling him to carry on his life.”
Professor McKinnon’s personal experience with cancer led him to dedicate his research career to his wife. Sadly, she died of breast cancer at just 39 when their children were one and five.
“She had a really terrible clinical course with a lot of toxicities from the drugs she took, many drugs just didn’t work or were ineffective,” Professor McKinnon said. “We need to have not just better drugs, but use the drugs we have in a much more optimal fashion.”
Ryan is extremely grateful to people that donate to Cancer Council to support research like this.
“Thank you, for the research and treatment that allows me to do the things I love with the people I love,” Ryan said.
“The funding provided to research programs such as what Professor McKinnon’s doing is extremely important that will help a lot of people diagnosed with cancer.”
It’s equally as important to researchers like Professor McKinnon that they get the funding they need to focus on what they do best.
“Funding from Cancer Council is absolutely critical to everything we do,” Professor McKinnon said.
“For progress in cancer research you need to achieve momentum and momentum takes a continuity of funding.
“I don’t know how we’d actually achieve what we do without funding from Cancer Council.”
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