A Norfolk man who took part in a clinical trial for a new cancer drug has said the treatment saved his life.

George Pieri, from Great Yarmouth, was diagnosed with skin cancer on his lower lip in 2017, which was first picked up by his dentist. 

The 70-year-old was then referred to The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust in London and later joined a trial for a new drug, called ceralasertib, which could sensitise tumours to immunotherapy. 

Researchers from the trust and The Institute of Cancer Research found the drug, which targets cancer's ability to repair its DNA by blocking a key protein called ATR, increased immune activity in some patient's tumours – changes which could leave them much more susceptible to immunotherapy treatments.  

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Mr Pieri said: “My cancer has been very difficult to treat, and the disease spread to both my mouth and neck. 

"Treatment has included chemotherapy and radiotherapy, an operation to replace the bone in my lower jaw, and I also had a tracheostomy."

Mr Pieri joined a trial which he initially responded well too, but when it stopped working he was "really running out of options". 

It was then he heard about the ceralasertib trial and since taking the drug his cancer has remained stable.

"I’m really happy and incredibly grateful, it’s saved my life and has allowed me to spend precious time with my grandchildren," he said. 

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Great Yarmouth Mercury: George Pieri, 70, from Great Yarmouth, took part in a trial for a new cancer drug called ceralasertib. George Pieri, 70, from Great Yarmouth, took part in a trial for a new cancer drug called ceralasertib. (Image: The Institute for Cancer Research)

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Ceralasertib, which can be taken as a pill, stopped tumours growing in more than half of patients – 34 out of 66 patients whose treatment response could be measured.

In five patients, the drug shrank their tumours. Of the 39 patients who benefited from the drug, 68pc saw no progression of their disease for at least four months.   

Study leader Dr Magnus Dillon, clinician scientist at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and clinical consultant at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said:  “Excitingly, this trial provides us with the biological insights for how best to combine this drug with an immunotherapy and generate an even more powerful cancer treatment for people who have exhausted other options.”