A DORSET woman who was given a year to live when she was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer says a Southampton drugs trial has kept her alive.

Carol Wesson, 73, from Colehill in Wimborne was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017 as a result of being exposed to asbestos at work.

Due to her poor prognosis, she was offered the chance to be part of a new trial funded by Stand Up To Cancer at Southampton’s Clinical Trials Unit.

“I’d never been ill in my life,” said Carol.

“But when I was walking my dogs, I noticed I was getting breathless. When I was told I had cancer and found out I only had a year to live, I thought, ‘I had better go off and do as much as I can do.’”

Mesothelioma is traditionally treated with surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Until now, there have been few options available when patients no longer respond to treatment.

However, the CONFIRM trial, co-led by Romsey’s Professor Gareth Griffiths at the University of Southampton, offered Carol the chance to try a new immunotherapy drug, Nivolumab, to see if it could prolong her life by boosting the body’s immune system to recognise and kill cancer cells.

Carol said: “During the trial, the nurse said to me, ‘There’s something about you Carol, your results are incredible.’ The tumour had reduced down to a very small amount and now I am about 90 per cent back to normal. It completely changed my life. It’s kept me alive!”

Carol is backing Stand Up To Cancer, the joint national fundraising campaign from Cancer Research UK and Channel 4, that brings the UK together to speed up progress in life-saving cancer research.

Now in its ninth year in the UK, it has raised more than £84 million, funding 59 clinical trials and projects involving over 19,000 cancer patients across the country. 

The CONFIRM trial is the first of its kind to show that a treatment has improved survival in patients whose mesothelioma has returned after chemotherapy.

Prof Gareth Griffiths said, “This is a significant breakthrough because mesothelioma is a pretty nasty cancer and the treatment options have been very limited.

“Now, what we’ve found with mesothelioma is that if their first chemo doesn’t work, we have now found clear evidence that giving immunotherapy as a second or third line of treatment is of benefit to our mesothelioma patients.

“It’s a fantastic result and we hope that this could become the new standard of care for our future mesothelioma patients in the NHS.”

It is hoped the drug will be approved for use on the NHS for future mesothelioma patients.

Four years after her diagnosis, Carol is making the most of the extra time she has been given and is enjoying life without the breathlessness that first led to her diagnosis.

She said, “I’m enjoying walking my dogs again and living normally. A time will come when I have to take it all seriously but why do that now when I don’t have to?”

Researchers in Southampton are now hoping a similar immunotherapy drug could provide more time for patients with bladder cancer and are seeking volunteers to take part in a new trial called BL-13.