A retired primary school teacher with a matter of months to live is now enjoying life thanks to a new blood cancer drug she is taking as part of a clinical trial at one of Cure Leukaemia’s Trials Acceleration Programme Centres at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust in Manchester.

Six years ago Chris (Christine) Rennie, 63, from The Wirral in Merseyside had been unwell for a year. She’d made several trips to see her GP, but the bone pain she was suffering was thought to be arthritis, night sweats were put down to the menopause and her asthma the cause of her chest infections. In May 2017 a blood test finally revealed she had myeloma, a type of blood cancer that develops from the cells in the bone marrow.

“I just felt rubbish all the time with extreme fatigue, and I found out I was anaemic. I just felt rubbish all the time, which I know is not medical, but I had a constant line of infections. So it was chest infections but also things like a toe infection, a throat infection, anything you could think of. I would just get rid of one and another one would crop up. But the main thing was the horrendous bone pain. They eventually discovered I had a collapsed spine in the end.”

“I had never heard of myeloma at the time. I knew of leukaemia, but never myeloma. I was just in shock when I heard the word blood cancer. Before my appointment, all I was thinking was, I just want to get back to work. It took a lot of getting my head round.”

“The hardest thing was telling my husband and my kids. My husband, in particular, tried to deny it for quite a while before he eventually accepted it. Luckily my kids were grown up at the time, and they have just been stalwarts. They just had the mindset of “Right okay, what can we do” – very practical!”

Chris had to endure nine types of chemotherapy over five years as well as a stem cell transplant at The Royal Liverpool hospital. She also had eight hospital admissions for sepsis and pneumonia and suffered broken bones including a spinal collapse.

“I ran out of options relatively quickly. My liver was reacting adversely to a lot of the drugs that they use to treat myeloma. I was only on one of my dose of chemotherapy for four days and I went back for my blood test the following week and ended up staying in hospital for the next two weeks until my liver had got back to normal.”

With no options left and given just a few months to live, the grandmother of three was referred to leading cancer centre and one of Cure Leukaemia’s TAP Centres, The Christie, and offered the opportunity of participating in a phase 1 (early phase) clinical trial.

“I feel better than I’ve felt in years. The side effects are minimal, and I’ve not had any infections since being on the drug.” Chris explained:

“When I was diagnosed, I didn’t think I’d ever see a grandchild and now I spend so much time with them. It’s joyous. I enjoy life more than anyone I know. I do something enjoyable every day and I also make sure I walk 10,000 steps. I’m very lucky as I have a wonderful, close, supportive family especially, Steve, my husband of nearly 40 years and several very good friends.”

“They help me stay positive. I’m so appreciative of still being alive. It gives me a real buzz. I’m now looking forward to meeting my fourth grandchild due to be born in the spring.”

“When you hear about clinical trials, you think it takes years for the drugs to come into the system. The positive thing about being on the trial was the fact that the clinicians monitored literally everything that was going on in my body at the time.”

Dr Emma Searle, a Consultant Haematologist who has been leading the trial at The Christie and who has been in charge of Chris’s care, said: “These early results are exciting and show that inobrodib has the potential to offer patients with advanced multiple myeloma another option when conventional treatment has stopped working.”

“Furthermore, inobrodib, in oral capsule form, offers an entirely new way of treating this type of cancer. Taken together, these findings provide clear encouragement for our ongoing clinical research into this drug.”