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Felixstowe dad, Luke Croarkin, who relapsed with leukaemia for the third time welcomes new research

A Felixstowe dad who relapsed with leukaemia for the third time has welcomed new research which could leave patients with fewer side effects from treatments.

Luke Croarkin, 36, was first diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML) at the age of 15 while on a family holiday in Benidorm.

Chemotherapy left him bed-bound and reliant on a wheelchair while being fed through a tube.

Pictured: Luke Croarkin, 36, of Felixstowe, with his two sons Jake and Logan, aged nine and seven, and wife Kirsty. Picture: submitted
Pictured: Luke Croarkin, 36, of Felixstowe, with his two sons Jake and Logan, aged nine and seven, and wife Kirsty. Picture: submitted

He had a bone marrow transplant before relapsing six months later, which led to another transplant.

Since then, he married his wife Kirsty in 2011 and had two sons, Jake and Logan, aged nine and seven, who also organised a fund-raiser for Leukaemia UK.

But last year, Luke relapsed again, which turned the family’s world upside down.

Anomalies were found in his blood when he was being treated for pneumonia.

They were confirmed to be both AML and acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), which is a different type of blood cancer.

He is receiving drug treatment which aims to target both cell types, which is his last viable option.

He has now thrown his support behind Leukaemia UK’s new research project which could lead to treatments with fewer side effects for AML.

Luke said: “The treatment was so hard on me as well as my family – as a parent now, I know my mum must have gone through absolute hell when I was first unwell abroad and struggling to get me home again before dealing with everything that followed.

“Going into remission for the second time was the start of the rest of my life.”

His sons, who took on a challenge to run 100km throughout March, have so far raised nearly £10,000.

“We were all devastated when Luke relapsed again, it was such a shock,” said Kristy.

“Of course, I knew about everything he had gone through – he was still recovering when we met – but life had moved on, we had even thrown a huge party to celebrate his ten years in remission.

“I’d always said I wished I was with him when he was ill so I could have supported him – now I am and of course I wish it wasn’t happening.

“But Luke is the strongest person I know. And there isn’t a day goes by where I don’t think he’s got this and that he will be okay.”

According to Cancer Research UK, AML is a type of blood cancer that develops quickly and often requires urgent treatment, such as chemotherapy or a bone marrow transplant.

Although it is the second most common type of leukaemia, the survival rate is among the lowest in any cancer type.

Professor Terry Rabbitts, professor of molecular immunology at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, is exploring a new approach to targeting AML cancer cells.

He said: “Leukaemia is caused by mutations in the DNA of normal cells, causing them to become cancerous.

“Sometimes chromosomes break and are joined to other chromosomes. If this happens it can result in ‘fusion proteins’ – these only occur in cancer cells, so they are specific targets for treatment.

“My team and I will explore a new approach to targeting fusion proteins by channelling antibodies inside cancer cells.”