How treatment helped Cannock policeman survive rare cancer longer than anyone else

A retired Staffordshire police officer who became the world’s longest survivor of a rare form of cancer is helping to change the future of medicine.

Margaret Kelsall with a photograph of her husband of 33 years
Margaret Kelsall with a photograph of her husband of 33 years

Richard Kelsall, 54, of Gnosall near Stafford, was diagnosed with Pancreatic Acinar Cell Carcinoma, a type of pancreatic cancer, and cared for at County Hospital in Stafford.

He was initially given just four months to live, but survived for four years, thanks to the pioneering work of a University Hospitals of North Midlands doctor.

Fewer than 10 people are reported to have been diagnosed with Pancreatic Acinar Cell Carcinoma, making it one of the rarest forms of cancer.

Pc Kelsall was based in Cannock

In Mr Kelsall’s case, Dr Apurna Jegannathen, clinical oncologist, persevered with chemotherapy treatment for 42 months - well beyond the standard timeframe.

Mr Kelsall has now passed away, but his case - where prolonged chemotherapy was administered - has served to highlight the unique benefits of personalised medicine.

Mr Kelsall had recently retired as a police officer in Cannock, where he had worked for Staffordshire Police for 17 years and was an active member of the community.

His wife Margaret said: “Richard and I were married for 33 years. We’ve been together since we were 17 and I couldn’t imagine my life without him. I loved him to bits and even now, it’s hard for me to get my head around the fact that he is gone.

Richard and Margaret Kelsall, from Gnosall
Richard Kelsall photographed in 2014 with granddaughter Amelia Elouise

“Thanks to the extra time we were given, Richard was able to spend more time with family, and in particular our two granddaughters, who he just adored. One of them was born in July 2014, just a few months before Richard died in October. We’re just so glad that he was able to have that time, he loved them and lived for them.

“Richard never gave up, he was a marvel. Every day he would wake up and say 'I’m still here!' He was just glad to be alive and had a positive attitude. Towards the end he was so poorly, but he would still get up early every day, shower, have breakfast and be ready to start the day.

"Sometimes he would even do the housework for me while I was at work. He loved gardening and walking our rescue dog, Stanley – in fact, we used to say that those two looked after each other. Stanley always seemed to know when Richard wasn’t feeling so good.

Richard Kelsall, photographed in 2010
Richard Kelsall, photographed in 1994

“Dr Jegannathen’s mantra was ‘‘P’ for plentiful’, which always made us laugh and became our mantra too. Basically, she meant that she would keep going and would try anything and everything she possibly could to help us. We are incredibly grateful for her care and for the work of all the team at County Hospital, they really did look after us both. ”

Dr Jegannathen and Dr Shalid Gilani, oncology specialty doctor, have published their findings in the ACTA Scientific Cancer Biology journal, a high-profile clinical publication with an international audience.

Their article ‘A Sustained Response of Maintenance Therapy in Pancreatic Acinar Cell Carcinoma (PACC): A Case Report and Literature Review’ has been awarded the title of ‘Best Article’ and will help to shape the future of cancer care.

The trust that runs County Hospital is part of the ‘100,000 genome project’, a UK Government project which sequences whole genomes from NHS patients.

The project focuses on rare diseases, some common types of cancer, and infectious diseases, in an effort to create a new genomic medicine service for the NHS – transforming the way people are cared for and bringing advanced diagnosis and personalised treatments to people nationwide.

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