In July 2006, Jean, aged 59, was rushed to hospital after experiencing chronic stomach pains and severe vomiting. After a 10 day stay, Jean was released but advised to come back if the symptoms returned. Sadly they did return. After a series of tests and an agonising wait, a CT scan revealed that Jean had a type of lymphoma (cancer of the lymphatic system) known as ‘diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the UK, with between 4,500 and 5,000 people diagnosed each year. Jean’s cancer was already advanced (to stage 3) and had spread around her body.
Jean Bayliss, Clinical trial patient
I was told [by the specialist at Southampton General Hospital] that I was completely riddled with cancer, I would need extensive surgery and had very little hope. I was absolutely devastated.
Following major surgery at Southampton General Hospital, removing some of her intestine and performing a full hysterectomy, Jean was referred to Professor Peter Johnson, Professor of Oncology at University of Southampton. Professor Johnson explained to Jean about the lymphoma immunotherapy trials taking place at Southampton and asked if Jean would like to take part. “I was told my cancer could prove fatal, but with treatment it might be curable, and the trial was designed to see if my chances could be improved further still.” remembers Jean.
It was obvious to me that even if the trial didn’t work for me, it would enhance their dedicated work into finding a cure.
Presented with new hope, Jean readily agreed to take part in a trial called R-CHOP, which involved taking an antibody drug called rituximab, along with steroids and chemotherapy injections.
After initial reactions to the drugs, Jean responded well to treatment and after 5 months, Jean’s cancer was in remission. Nine years on, Jean and John are thoroughly enjoying life to the full together; playing tennis and golf and spending time with their family, including seeing their great-niece graduate with a degree from the University of Southampton.
I still can’t believe how incredibly fortunate I was to have been given the chance to go on the trial. John and I have been given a wonderful life thanks to this research.
Jean’s experience motivated her to commit to raising money for research into curing cancer. She has taken part in numerous charity runs, walks and coffee mornings, raising thousands of pounds for the cause. Jean is now doing all she can to support our campaign for a new Centre and we are extremely grateful to have her on board.
“I believe the new Centre for Cancer Immunology is the way forward to one day finding the answer to this dreadful disease,” says Jean.
Footnote: The trial that Jean took part in was one of a series testing the antibody rituximab, which has been the subject of extensive studies in the immunology laboratories in Southampton, to find out how it works in treating lymphoma and how the effects can be made better for patients in the future. Southampton was one of the first places in the UK to test this treatment and others like it.