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Graham Silk's story

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13 May 2011

Taking part in a clinical trial saved my life

In February 2001, Graham was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia (CML), aged just 41, after having an MRI scan to investigate a niggling knee injury.

Graham, a successful businessman, says: "Everything had been going fantastically. My business life was going really well, I was enjoying life and my wife was expecting our third child. I couldn't have been happier."

“My diagnosis came out the blue. Instead of having a white blood cell count of less than 10, it was over 100. My brother was not a close enough match for me to have a transplant and I was given three years to live which was absolutely devastating. I just said 'That's not enough, I've got young children'

“I had been referred to Professor Charlie Craddock at University Hospital Birmingham and one day, six months after I had been diagnosed, he had some great news. He told me that he had managed to secure three places on a clinical trial for a promising drug being trialled in the US called STI571. Two had been taken but I could have the last place.

“Quite quickly after taking the drug, blood tests showed that my white blood cells were coming down in levels and soon I was in haematological remission, which was then followed by cytogenic remission and I am now in molecular remission. The drug was working so fast in the early stages that at one point my white cell count actually became too low making me incredibly susceptible to infection. Fortunately, the constant monitoring by the research nurse picked this up quickly.

"The drug STI571 is now known as Glivec and is the most commonly used drug for CML, with 80% of patients responding to it. Getting on the clinical trial saved my life and it’s now been ten years since I was diagnosed, which is time I didn't think I'd have.”

During his treatment, Graham met ex-England footballer Geoff Thomas, who was also being treated for CML by Professor Craddock. Since then Graham, Geoff and Professor Craddock have campaigned and fundraised with Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research to get new drugs to patients. The establishment of the ‘Trials Acceleration Programme’ national clinical trials network is the culmination of these collective efforts.

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