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Bury St Edmunds grandfather, Barry Ambrose, 77, who was given six months to live after throat cancer diagnosis saved by pioneering cancer treatment

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A Bury St Edmunds man who was given six months to live four years ago has praised a pioneering cancer treatment for helping free his body of the disease.

Barry Ambrose, from Moreton Hall, was one of 947 patients who took part in a life-saving drugs trial after being diagnosed with throat cancer in 2017.

Within eight weeks of the trial, the 77-year-old was told that his tumour had disappeared.

Barry Ambrose being given treatment. Picture by Ambrose family. (52269989)
Barry Ambrose being given treatment. Picture by Ambrose family. (52269989)

He said: “It is marvellous but also a bit unreal, I have to remind myself that this has happened.

“Men think they are going to live forever but when you are told things are finite it focuses you and makes you appreciate what you have got.”

The tumour was found after Barry had a biopsy at West Suffolk Hospital and he was then transferred to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, to talk about treatment.

He said: “We were told the cancer had also spread to my lungs, there was no surgery and I was not being given chemotherapy.

Barry and Sue Ambrose. Picture by Grenville Wilson.
Barry and Sue Ambrose. Picture by Grenville Wilson.

“They offered radio treatment to make me comfortable and palliative care. We were in a state of shock.”

Barry and his wife, Sue, then researched for a second opinion and found The Royal Marsden Hospital, in Sutton, which is one of the leading cancer hospitals in the country.

He said: “We went to see our doctor and told him we were devastated by the situation.

“We wanted to get to the Marsden, he said the same thing and contacted them. Within the week I got a phone call to come down.”

Barry was asked if he wanted to take part in a drugs trial and, in his words, with ‘nothing to lose’, he agreed.

The trial, called CheckMate 651, saw a combination of immunotherapies nivolumab and ipilimumab given to half the participants and chemotherapy given to the other.

Barry started his immunotherapy, which sparks a patient’s immune system to kill their own cancer cells, on his birthday in 2017.

He said: “I really lucked out by being given that, I was given a hospital infusion every two weeks.

“Then I was also given a line into my arm and a pump which dispensed the drugs over a period four or five days at home.”

Within the first two months, Barry received the phone call telling him his throat tumour had disappeared.

He said: “We were staggered and so was the research nurse who called.

“They told me they do not call as it is usually bad news but they could not believe it, it was fantastic.”

Barry still had the cancer in his lungs, but over the remaining time during the 20 month trial that disappeared too.

Some lymph glands in his neck, however, had not reacted to treatment, but after chemotherapy and a small operation, he was declared completely cancer free about nine months ago.

The father and grandfather-of-two, who still goes for scans every three months, said: “When the hospital asked if I could tell my story I said ‘yes’ straight away.

“I feel so grateful for being given the opportunity to partake in the trial – I really cannot praise them enough.”