John Rogers AM appreciates life’s simple pleasures more than most, such as a hearty seafood lunch at Blue Eye restaurant on Hobart’s waterfront with two of his grandchildren.
The chances of being around to see his grandchildren grow up had been perilously slim at stages during John’s treatment for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL).
“My donations in no way match my gratitude but I am continually impressed by the scientific quality of the research at WEHI.”
John attributes his seven-year remission to pioneering discoveries made by WEHI scientists and their collaborators.
“When I was first diagnosed with CLL more than 20 years ago, my oncologist told me I would die with it and not from it,” recalls John, a former director of clinical genetics at the Royal Children’s Hospital.
“Ten years later, I was beginning to have problems with enlarged glands and was offered an experimental anti-cancer drug called ABT 263. I studied the protocols as there was a risk of bleeding, I decided to wait.”
“By 2012 I was in serious trouble and was given radiotherapy to my abdomen to make it easier to breathe.” By that time a modified drug called ABT-199, had been developed as part of a collaboration that included WEHI.
Together with Professor Stephen Opat, the director of clinical haematology at Monash Health, it was decided that the potential side-effects of ABT-199, which had previously caused concern, had been sufficiently improved for John to take part in a clinical trial.
Just hours after his first treatment, John’s glands felt softer. Six months later his bone marrow was clear of CLL. And within three years treatment was no longer necessary.
“My early chemotherapy was brutal but ABT-199 was comparatively gentle. It’s amazing what WEHI’s research has led to,”
John, 82, is now able to demonstrate his gratitude to WEHI as a donor. He also donates to a number of other charitable causes with his wife, Margot.