A Mum-of-three who says that the hardest thing about having cancer was that her youngest daughter wouldn't kiss her for fear of catching the disease has become one of the first in the world to take part in a groundbreaking first-in-human cancer study at Weston Park Hospital.
Amanda Horsman, 43, of Warmsworth, Doncaster was told just days before Christmas in 2016 that she had advanced cancer of the head and neck but decided to keep the news of her diagnosis hidden from her three young children, Franchesca 10, Kristian 9, and Holly 6, until the new year.
She has now become one of only 20 people in the world, and only one in three in Sheffield to take part in the groundbreaking trial to see if a new drug known as MTL-005 can affect chemotherapy by making cancerous tumour cells more sensitive to radiation therapy.
The cutting-edge clinical trial which involves patients receiving a one-off dose of the drug a week before chemotherapy has been brought to Weston Park Hospital thanks to its status as a centre of research excellence.
Amanda, who first noticed a lump in the left-hand side of her neck but had believed it was a cyst, says taking part in the Morex trial was her way “of making something positive out of something so negative”.
She said: “I wasn’t in any pain, but mentally it was different. If someone said you were going to hell, you wouldn’t believe it, but that’s what living with cancer is like. I just thought ‘what have I done wrong?’, but I just had to come to terms with it.
"Taking part in the trial was my way of doing something to help the next generation and the generation after that."
Thinking Christmas 2016 would be her last, Amanda made the brave decision not to tell those closest to her - including her children.
“I couldn’t change what I had been told, but I didn’t want to ruin their Christmas,” the busy mum-of-three said.
However, taking part in the study gave her a renewed hope.
"If no-one got involved there would be no way we could help others get treatment quicker or support people through the last months of their life."
On the advice of her consultant oncologist at Weston Park Hospital, Dr Bernie Foran, Amanda took the information home to fully understand what would happen during the clinical trial.
She then received the one-off dose over two days in early February 2017, and a week later began her radiotherapy treatment.
“My eldest was in tears and my youngest just didn’t understand,” added Amanda who has now returned to work as a full-time union convenor.
After treatment ended in March 2017, she was given the all-clear in autumn last year.
Dr Bernie Foran, who has been working with a team of research colleagues from Glasgow and London to bring the Morex trial to Sheffield, said that the first-in-human study had resulted in even more innovative treatments being brought to the region’s specialist cancer hospital.
“Weston Park Hospital is one of only four specialist cancer hospital in the UK, we have been able to bring even more innovative treatments to clinical settings, including two or three more first-in-human studies, with more now planned in the pipeline."
Amanda added: "Everything about the trial was really positive, and now my youngest tells everyone ‘my mum beat cancer!’”
“Weston Park Hospital is an amazing place – from the lady cleaning the floor to the nurse or consultant, everyone’s been outstanding."
To thank the team, Amanda is now trying to raise £10,000 for Weston Park Cancer Charity, and is staging several events, including a charity ball on the 23 June and a sponsored family fun evening walk at the end of September which is to be held around Doncaster Rovers football ground.
To find out more about getting involved in clinical research at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact 0114 226 5935.
For further information about supporting Weston Park Cancer Charity visit www.westonpark.org.uk.