By MIKARLA THURECHT
FEW people can say that cancer saved their lives. But for Rockhampton's Reg Buckley, the same cancer that was killing him ended up being the key to his cure.
Sitting with the now-retired former bitumen layer and his wife Jan in their North Rockhampton home yesterday, it was hard to imagine the rollercoaster they had been on over the past few years.
Ten years ago Reg, 69, was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer and was given eight months to live.
They were told surgery and radiation were useless and so, determined not to give up, Jan searched for an experimental treatment to save her husband.
"I was told nothing else could be done but Jan refused to accept it,'' he said.
Reg was placed on hormone treatments for years, then in 2004, he was finally accepted into a clinical trial with the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, together with the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital and Urological Society of Australasia.
"I was told I was the perfect candidate for an experiment because I was almost dead,'' Reg said yesterday, wiping away a few stray tears.
"I still get upset about it. I knew it was my last chance.'' Over the course of the trial, scientists removed a complete tumour from Reg which they used to develop a vaccine.
The tumour cells were then radiated to make sure they could not grow back.
They were then mixed with an immune system-boosting cell (known as dendritic cells) from Reg's blood and injected back into him as a vaccine.
Reg's cancer had spread beyond his prostate gland to his pelvic lymph nodes when he started the trial.
After just eight injections, most of the tumours had disappeared.
Now one year later and without further treatment, Reg appears to have beaten the disease.
"I've still got him,'' said Jan, smiling at Reg yesterday.
"We had been married for 35 years. I didn't like being told what to do. We wanted to see our daughter married. We wanted to become grandparents and now we can,'' Jan said.