When Arthur Owtram was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer, doctors told him he likely had less than a month to live.
“My wife was in shock and crying, and I was so worried for my family,” said the father of three and resident of South Surrey, British Columbia. “I decided to look at myself like a soldier going into battle: I had cancer, and I was going to do something about it.”
Like many pancreatic cancer patients, Owtram’s diagnosis came out of the blue. The only symptoms he exhibited were mild itching and allergies, and he was otherwise healthy and active.
Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related death in Canada, affecting 5,500 people a year. The disease poses several major challenges for both patients and researchers: a lack of early detection tests as well as few known symptoms typically result in a late diagnosis. Unlike other cancers, there are currently no biomarkers or subtypes of the disease, and there are few treatment options available.
Owtram was quickly enrolled into TFRI’s Enhanced Pancreatic Cancer Profiling for Individualized Care (EPPIC) clinical trial during the project’s pilot phase, and started on a new experimental therapy at BC Cancer. His initial results have been very promising: after 1.5 years of treatment his tumours have shrunk and none of the cancer has spread further.
“I think the trial has worked fantastically, and I’m really very happy about the whole situation,” Owtram says, noting his quality of life during treatment has remained high, and side effects have been minimal. “I’m still around, and it’s incredible.”
The 56-year-old has been focusing on his health, making time for rest, exercise, and his family and friends. Pancreatic cancer doesn’t give patients too much time, he says, but the trial is giving him more of his life to live.
“When you get diagnosed with cancer, you have to accept it, there’s no choice in the matter,” he says. “But you need to go in with a positive attitude and fight – not only for your life, but to help researchers find cures that can help other people in the future. I’m in there for the full fight, I want to contribute to research for myself and for others.”