The date was April 2017. The month that Lee Hancock’s world came crashing down.
Lee was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer. A colonoscopy revealed a 15cm by 5cm tumour, more commonly known as Colorectal Cancer.
Lee is a keen judoka and part of the judo family at Quorn Judo Club where he began training at just seven years old. A near fatal car accident stopped him competing when he was 18 but carried on coaching for a number of years until business commitments stopped him
If that wasn’t enough to deal with, doctors also discovered that the cancer had spread to his liver, where a growth the size of a small melon was detected. Lee had to undergo a bowel resection which removed 4/5ths of his bowel (May 2017) followed by months of chemotherapy (July-Sept 2017). He then had further surgery to remove 50% of his liver (Sept 2017) followed by months of gruelling chemotherapy (finished Feb 2018).
At first, the family tried their best to be brave because they had heard Bowel Cancer is one of the easiest to treat, with chances of recovery and survival reported to be quite good. What they didn’t realise is this statistic doesn’t actually apply to stage 4 cancer, which is linked to just a 5-10% survival rate, at best, over a 5-year period.
Lee is a fighter and they have both tried to remain positive throughout his treatment but as they were just beginning to think that perhaps the worst could now be over, we were dealt another blow and would have to endure a further major setback.
After a routine check-up during 2018, doctors told them that the cancer was back and had now spread to Lee’s lungs and diaphragm. More invasive and painful surgery was now required and more chemotherapy was to follow.
Lee was found to have a BRAF V600E mutation, which means that his cancer type ‘mutates’ whenever it is attacked. Whenever they try to treat this cancer, it learns what is attacking it and mutates so you can’t stop it. The gene mutation makes his tumours resistant to chemotherapy and other treatments. Up to one in five people with certain kinds of cancer will have this mutation, which means a very high chance of mortality.
15-20% people diagnosed with Bowel Cancer, Skin Cancer, Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer & Hairy Cell Leukaemia will have this mutation. Meaning thousands of people like Lee will die from this disease. With further testing and understanding there could be a cure for this type of cancer.
To extend Lee’s life, and therefore others, the family have been given the opportunity to access a method called CRISPR which traces faults in the genes. When these faults are found they can be switched off using targeted treatment to effectively kill off the cancer cells.
When Lee’s cancer is better understood better matches can be made for treatment. Achieving our target would fully fund crucial CRISPR sequencing and a dedicated, full time researcher at University of Birmingham. This research could lead to the answer that saves Lee from an early death.
So far the family have raised over £25,000 but the support from the judo family, we can help push them further towards their target.