Vicky Phelan: 'The level of cancer in my body is starting to go down already'

The CervicalCheck campaigner has undergone two rounds of treatment of a new drug in the Unites States that she calls 'Pembro 2.0'
Vicky Phelan: 'The level of cancer in my body is starting to go down already'

Vicky Phelan said she feels "quite positive and fairly hopeful" that her treatment will work.

Vicky Phelan said there are already signs that her cancer is responding to the medical trial she is undergoing in the United States.

Ms Phelan travelled to Maryland in January to take part in a clinical trial. She has had three doses of the drug thus far under the immunotherapy trial and has been sharing her progress on social media. She said the support she received from the public has been “phenomenal”.

She told the Ray D'Arcy Show she chose this particular treatment because the drug is similar to Pembro, which she had been previously taking before it stopped working for her, and patients who had been on Pembro seem to respond well to the new treatment.

“It’s a very similar drug to Pembro, it’s an immunotherapy drug and that’s why I wanted to go on this trial, because I had responded so well to Pembro. I wanted to look for another drug similar to that,” she said.

“There’s an extra bit to this drug, it’s like Pembro 2.0, really. It’s a better version of Pembro. My doctor said half of the patients he has on this trial who were on Pembro respond really well to this drug. That was really promising for me to hear so I’m hoping I’ll be one of those.” 

She said she will find out on March 23 if the trial has been working for her but said if there is no change seen in her cancer during that scan, her trial will end.

“My first scan is on March 23 and if everything goes well I’ll have a scan every eight weeks. But if I have this scan and they see there has been no change and my tumours are still either the same size or have grown, that’s the end of that and I will be taken off the trial that day because it costs so much to have patients on trials, something like $1m per patient. It’s an expensive venture for them. If somebody’s not responding they will try to find somebody else."

Vicky Phelan speaking ahead of a recent round of treatment in the US.

Vicky Phelan speaking ahead of a recent round of treatment in the US.

However, Ms Phelan said her blood levels are showing signs that the cancer is responding to the treatment.

“I’m actually quite positive and fairly hopeful that this is going to work for me because already one of the things they’re looking at in my bloods is my CA125 levels, which is a marker particularly that would be seen in women with gynecological cancers like I have. It’s something some women with cervical cancer show high signs of and I am one of those,” she said.

“When I started here in January my levels were at 330 or more and the normal level is less than 45. Already after just two treatments, my levels are gone down to 104. My doctor said that he’s quite hopeful, that that’s a good indicator that the level of cancer in my body is starting to go down already. That’s a good sign.” 

Ms Phelan will be in the United States for treatment for the first six months of the year and already she has missed one milestone: her son, Darragh turned 10 last Friday. She described it as “a tough weekend”.

“It was the first one I missed but I'm logical and I say to myself: I'm not there for this one but hopefully I'll be there for the next one.” 

She also spoke about making plans for her own funeral and she would like artists including The Stunning and Bressie to play at it.

“I want it to be a celebration. I have no regrets. It's knowing that I've squeezed every drop out of life. There's a great freedom to just enjoy life, the simple things make me happy.”

More in this section

Lifestyle
Newsletter

The best food, health, entertainment and lifestyle content from the Irish Examiner, direct to your inbox.

Sign up