Professor Richard Scolyer
Aussie cancer expert beats incurable tumour with self-made treatment, sparking hope for future patients. Twitter / Professor Richard Scolyer @ProfRScolyerMIA

A world-first treatment based on his research has kept an Australian doctor cancer-free for a year.

A year after a devastating stage 4 Glioblastoma diagnosis, Professor Richard Scolyer from the University of Sydney has shared some positive news: His recent scans show no signs of recurrence.

Taking to X (formerly Twitter), Scolyer wrote: "I had brain #MRI scan last Thursday looking for recurrent #glioblastoma (&/or treatment complications). I found out yesterday that there is still no sign of recurrence. I couldn't be happier!!!!!"

Scolyer suffered a seizure in Poland while travelling through Europe for medical conferences in May 2023. This incident led to a devastating diagnosis for the Australian fitness educator as MRI results back in Australia revealed an aggressive and terminal glioblastoma.

Cancer Expert Designs Own Treatment, Beats the Odds

According to the BBC, his specific subtype has a very poor prognosis, with most patients surviving less than a year. As a pathologist and director at Melanoma Institute Australia, Scolyer, facing a glioblastoma diagnosis, turned to his expertise and collaborated with co-director Georgina Long to develop a personalised treatment strategy.

The duo's decade-long immunotherapy research at the Melanoma Institute revolutionised treatment for advanced melanoma patients, earning Professors Scolyer and Long the prestigious joint title of 2024 NSW Australian of the Year award.

Leveraging their immunotherapy research on harnessing the body's immune system to fight cancer, Long's team devised a groundbreaking treatment plan for Scolyer: a pre-surgery combination drug therapy, the first of its kind in the world.

Professors Richard Scolyer and Georgina Long
Prof Scolyer gets exp. personalised vaccine for glioblastoma. Twitter / Professor Richard Scolyer @ProfRScolyerMIA

Professor Long designed a unique pre-and-post-surgery combination immunotherapy regimen based on expert consultations to target Scolyer's tumour. Professor Scolyer was also the first to be administered a vaccine personalised to his tumour's characteristics, which boosts the drugs' cancer-detecting powers. This pioneering approach holds promise for the future of cancer treatment.

Australian Doctor's Remarkable Recovery

After surgery, Professor Scolyer underwent six weeks of radiotherapy. Initially, his recovery was complicated by epileptic seizures, liver issues, and pneumonia. However, he has since made a remarkable recovery and resumed his daily routine, including jogging an impressive 9.3 miles daily.

"I'm the best I have felt for yonks. It certainly doesn't mean that my brain cancer is cured... but it's just nice to know that it hasn't come back yet, so I've still got some more time to enjoy my life with my wife Katie and my three wonderful kids," he told BBC.

Professor Scolyer's ordeal began last June in Poland when headaches and a seizure prompted a brain scan. The scan revealed an abnormal area in the upper right portion of his skull, appearing as a light, ill-defined mass.

"I'm no expert in radiology, but... in my heart, I knew it was a tumour," he said. Armed with his expertise as a world-renowned cancer expert, Professor Scolyer refused to accept his fate and actively pursued a treatment plan.

"It didn't sit right with me to just accept certain death without trying something. Is it an incurable cancer? Well, bugger that!" he said. Professor Scolyer commended his team's perseverance with the 'experimental' treatment, highlighting its potential for more formal investigation as a promising new direction.

Professor Scolyer's case offers a positive light in the fight against glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive form of brain cancer diagnosed in around 300,000 people globally each year. His experimental, personalised immunotherapy regimen highlights the potential of this approach to extend lives, but this isn't the first encouraging sign.

DCVax vaccine has already shown promise in extending lifespans for aggressive brain cancer patients. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies like Moderna are actively developing cancer vaccines, with potential availability by 2030.

"We've generated a whole heap of data to make a foundation for that next step then so that we can help more people. We're not there yet. We have to really focus on showing that this pre-surgery, combination immunotherapy type of approach works in many people," Professor Long said.