‘I was given two months to live but new drug helped me beat cancer’ says Manchester Christie patient

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She started chemotherapy on Christmas Day but was warned her cancer was terminal.

A woman given just two months to live is now free of cancer after a clinical trial of a drug so experimental it doesn’t even have a name.

Eliana Keeling, 65, was left in shock when a routine blood test revealed she had acute myeloid leukaemia - a type of blood cancer - a week before Christmas in 2020.

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She started chemotherapy on Christmas Day that year, but despite two intensive rounds, Eliana was given the devastating news her cancer was terminal in May 2021.

But fit and active Eliana, a retired teacher from Manchester, refused to accept it was the end and asked to be referred to an expert cancer centre, The Christie, in the city.

Eliana Keeling, 65, from Chorlton in Manchester. Credit: Christie NHS Foundation Trust/ SWNSEliana Keeling, 65, from Chorlton in Manchester. Credit: Christie NHS Foundation Trust/ SWNS
Eliana Keeling, 65, from Chorlton in Manchester. Credit: Christie NHS Foundation Trust/ SWNS

She was enrolled on a clinical drug trial which amazingly put her into remission in just six months - meaning she was able to then have a bone marrow transplant.

Eliana, who has been in remission ever since, said: “When I was told the chemo hadn’t worked and I had a couple of months to live, I knew there was no way I was going to accept that.

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“It was as if a huge hole had opened in my world and everything planned disappeared in an instant.”

Eliana was offered the chance to be part of experimental research in a phase I clinical trial in June 2021, a month after her devastating diagnosis.

The trial used a novel targeted cancer treatment which exploits a chemical weakness in the leukaemia cells.

It combines a drug already used called azacytidine, with a new experimental drug which as yet doesn’t have a name.

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The theory behind the study is that the experimental drug, in tablet form, makes the conventional drug, which is given by injection, work more effectively.

By December last year Eliana’s body was cancer free, allowing her to have bone marrow transplant meaning she has been classed as in remission ever since.

Eliana, regular gym-goer who enjoyed active holidays before her diagnosis, celebrated her 31st wedding anniversary with husband John last month.

And she said the trial at the hospital - which she described as best thing that ever happened to her - has given her a new lease of life.

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She added: “The Christie is the best thing that happened to me. I enjoy going there, which is crazy, because who likes going to hospital?

“Everything is always explained to me and you are treated like a human being and not just a statistic. Every member of staff is incredible.

“I’ve now been given a new lease of life thanks to research, and feel like The Christie has worked a miracle.”

What did doctors say?

Dr Emma Searle, consultant haematologist at The Christie, said: “Eliana had a poor prognosis and her only chance was the clinical trial and bone marrow transplant for long term survival.

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“We’re really pleased Eliana had such a good response and is now leukaemia free.

“Given she had a very limited life expectancy when the chemotherapy failed to work, this is an excellent result for her.

“Not all our trial patients who have AML respond as well as Eliana did, but we are grateful to every patient and relative that feels able to support research here at The Christie.

“Trials are so important to make progress in treating cancer.”

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Acute myeloid leukemia is a type of blood cancer characterised by the rapid growth of abnormal blood cells that build up in the bone marrow and blood and interfere with normal blood cells.

It is one of the most common types of leukemia in adults, but still fairly rare overall, accounting for only about 1% of all cancers.

It is generally a disease of older people and is uncommon before the age of 45. The average age of people when they are first diagnosed with AML is about 68.

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