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Cancer research gives hope to Oli and his family

7 min read 12 February 2024

A lot has happened to Oli in the space of two years. Diagnosed with late-stage metastatic bowel cancer in 2021 at the age of 31, he was told he had less than a year to live. But thanks to the latest research at Peter Mac, Oli was given the precious time he needed to marry the love of his life, Sophie, and welcome his first child, Freddie.

Oli BowelCancer

Oli’s diagnosis came as a complete shock. His symptoms developed over the space of a few weeks, and within a matter of days Oli was diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Only days later, the final test results came back confirming Oli’s cancer was stage 4. He was told he had just 6–12 months to live.

“That’s the hardest thing you can ever hear. In that moment, all I wanted was to be told that the cancer was curable,” shared Oli.

Oli’s cancer had metastasised and spread to his liver, lymph nodes, bones, and the lining of his abdomen. But advancements in treatment – informed by the latest breakthroughs in cancer research – have given Oli a reason to remain hopeful.

The research that gave Oli hope

Peter Mac is Australia’s only public hospital solely dedicated to the treatment and research of cancer. It’s both a world-leading research institute and cancer hospital in one. This means that doctors at Peter Mac are able to rapidly translate the latest research findings into viable new treatments for patients.

Professor Jeanne Tie is Oli’s oncologist, a senior bowel cancer specialist leading several large national and international studies. When she first met Oli, she couldn’t offer him a cure, but there was one discovery she could share.

Professor Jeanne Tie Research

Professor Tie had been involved in a clinical trial focused on controlling the spread of BRAF-mutant bowel cancer. A rare and random genetic mutation, the BRAF mutation causes cells to become around 700 times more active than normal cells. They divide uncontrollably, forming tumours. In patients with this mutation, it’s like having your foot on the accelerator of cancer, and not letting go.

When tests revealed that Oli’s cancer was caused by a BRAF mutation, Professor Tie was able to take the insight from her clinical trial to create a new treatment option for Oli. One that Professor Tie believed could be key to extending Oli’s life.

She believed that it could not only take the foot off the accelerator of his cancer, but it could help to put the brake on, albeit temporarily:

“We ran a new trial that showed great results for BRAF-mutant bowel cancer. And so, I applied my experience from the trial to Oli’s case, and he’s had an amazing response.

“It’s been truly remarkable for this particular subtype of bowel cancer, which is usually quite resistant to treatment and has one of the worst prognoses of all bowel cancers.”

This new treatment, which combined chemotherapy with therapy targeting the BRAF mutation, has controlled Oli’s cancer for more than two years now, giving him more time. Enough time, in fact, to marry the love of his life and for them to welcome their first child.

Making memories

Thanks to breakthroughs in cancer research and the treatment he’s received at Peter Mac, Oli has been able to defy the odds.

It’s allowed Oli and Sophie the time to celebrate their love in front of family and friends when they married in 2022.

Oli and Sophie Wedding min 

Then, at the end of that year, they received the wonderful news they were expecting a child.

“Sophie and I welcomed little Freddie a few months ago and being his dad is even more amazing than I had imagined. He is growing so quickly and has just started smiling. I pinch myself every day.”

“I’ve lived to see my dream of being a dad become a reality.”

Oli Sophie and Freddie Aug 2023 min

For Oli, cancer research has given him the time to enjoy his sweet new baby, and the hope that he will witness every milestone and important moment in Freddie’s life.

A hopeful future

While Oli’s treatment has managed to slow the spread of his cancer, Professor Tie says the risk is that the cancer will eventually become resistant.

Professor Tie is focused on controlling the cancer in Oli’s body for as long as possible. But further research is urgently needed to determine why cancer can become resistant to treatment and what other targeted therapies might work.

Prof Tie Looksatvial

“Oli’s hope is that the longer I can keep him well, research will uncover new treatments and trials, and eventually there may be another trial several years down the track that will be the miracle – the cure,” she shares.

Oli has felt generally well since his initial diagnosis two years ago, but a recent scan revealed some tumour progression. Recently, Oli joined a clinical trial at Peter Mac and hopes that this new treatment plan will give him more time with his family.

“I’m feeling really well overall. My most recent scan showed some progression in a few of my tumours, so we’ve had to make some adjustments to my treatment. I’ve been lucky enough to be accepted into a new clinical trial, which commenced mid-October,” says Oli.

The support he’s received from those around him is getting Oli through these tough times. His friends and family rallied around him to form ‘Oli’s Army’, raising almost $200,000 so far for Peter Mac to help keep the breakthroughs coming.

Receiving world-class care

 Oli and Sophie 2

Oli is quick to praise the care provided by the team at Peter Mac, from Professor Tie to the nursing team, who he says have been amazing at guiding him through his cancer journey.

“I call them my guardian angels. They're so nice. They're so caring.”

Oli and his family have also benefited from the Peter Mac @ Home service. A nurse from Peter Mac will visit a patient at home, school, or work and provide care for a short time after surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

“It allows me to live a somewhat normal life,” Oli says. “I mean, this is a chronic illness. But I don't want this disease to define me. And when I'm working at home and getting my blood done as opposed to going into the hospital, it really enables me to live a normal life.”

With your support

Oli is thankful to research for giving him the time to welcome his son into the world — and he wants to be around for more.

“Cancer research gives me hope. It really does,” Oli says. “I've seen it. I believe in it because it’s what keeps me alive every day and it’s what has given me the opportunity to be a dad.

"As long as cancer research is happening at Peter Mac, there is always hope.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Sophie, who’s seen first-hand how medical advances and research can improve lives like Oli’s.

“We see progress and we see better outcomes when there is research happening – and funding is limited in the medical space in general. Oli is living proof of what research can do.”

As Oli shares: “From the bottom of my heart, I want to say thank you to all of Peter Mac’s supporters. Your donations are what help Peter Mac continue to do their incredible work supporting so many people like me on their cancer journey.”

With your help, researchers like Professor Tie can continue their vital work to help all people affected by cancer make more special memories with their families.

Donate today or find out more about how you can support Peter Mac your way.


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