Top US expert gives cancer battle hope
AGLASGOW hairdressing boss whose daughter was diagnosed with lung cancer at 29 has paid tribute to her “amazing” courage as the family pin their hopes on a US trial.
Michelle Hanlon, whose dad Billy owns Hair by Hanlon on Great Western Road, was featured in the Glasgow Times three years ago after being diagnosed with advanced, squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) at just 29, having never smoked.
Four years on, Michelle, 34, who worked as a hairdresser in her dad’s salon, has now run out of treatment options in the UK.
However, the team leading a ground-breaking trial at Stanford University in California have said they will consider Michelle’s case.
The study is being led by Ronald Levy, considered a pioneer in the field of immunotherapy, which harnesses the body’s own immune system to kill cancer cells.
Scientists injected minute amounts of two immunestimulating agents directly into solid tumours in mice and found that the combination eliminated all traces of cancer in the animals. The technique is now being trialled on cancer patients.
Billy, who is from Bishopbriggs, said: “I am constantly looking at things online. You just grab at anything that might work.
“Stanford Uni were the first over two years ago to discover that each of these two compounds has anti-cancer effects but the combination of the two of them could be a cure.
“When they did it with animals they were getting a 97% rate and they are now trialling it on patients.
“Michelle’s oncologist contacted the people in charge of the trial a couple of months ago and they said they would consider Michelle.
“We have to send them her details and all her scan results.
“Michelle is not on any treatment now, she’s had eight different treatments and the last thing she had was some radiotherapy on her brain.”
Scotland’s incidence rates of lung cancer are amongst the highest in the world. It is the biggest cancer killer in the country, accounting for one-quarter of all cancer deaths in 2014.
When Michelle was diagnosed she benefitted from a groundbreaking new immunotherapy drug, Nivolumab, which allowed her to return to hairdressing. However, she has now had to give up work.
Billy said: “Michelle has lost a lot of her mobility but she has been amazing. She never changes. She’s been fantastic the whole way through.”
While the family would not be expected to foot the bill for treatment in the US if Michelle is accepted on to the trial, they will still face a heavy financial cost to travel to the states.
Billy said: “Insurance is a nightmare. We are now in a world where one in two people gets cancer yet the costs for insuring someone with cancer to travel are astronomical.
“About three years ago we went to Spain and they wanted over £1000 for her to go. We didn’t pay it, we decided to take a chance, we had our European medical card if she had an accident and we decided if she got ill we would just fly home.”
Michelle Hanlon’s dad praised her resilience as she battles lung cancer