After being told he had only months to live, a WWII veteran has shocked doctors by beating cancer, at unlikely age of 101. Born in 16′, Sydney man benefited from a new immunotherapy treatment called Keytruda and the tumour on his face is now gone. Bert Collins from Bankstown, who fought the Japanese in New Guinea and worked at Myer for 50 years, is believed to be the world’s oldest cancer survivor. The centenarian, who quit smoking while in his 60s, tells he has lived past 100 due to ‘luck and attitude.’ After a stage 4 melanoma ravaged Bert’s face, brain, liver, bones and lungs, he turned to doctors at Melanoma Institute. Dr Alex Menzies decided to try immunotherapy, which works by enabling body’s immune system to eliminate cancer. ‘There is a myth that older Australians shouldn’t be considered for treatment but newer immunotherapy treatments are highly efficient with minimal toxicity. We have many patients in their 80s and 90s receiving treatment’ told Dr Menzies.
Bert was helped by the fact he was in better shape than many people decades younger than him and responded well to treatment. ‘We’ve come so far in research to find new and effective treatments for melanoma but I’d never had a patient as senior as Bert, so we didn’t know exactly how his body would respond to the treatment’ continued Dr Menzies. Bert is delighted tumour on his face is gone, which means he can shave again. He is now speaking out about dangers of skin cancer and has a message for younger Australians. Bert is working with Melanoma Institute to raise funds and awareness and warns people to wear hats and sunscreen and stay out of sun. His century of life experience has also given him a positive outlook. ‘I look at it this way, you can sit down and be miserable, or you can get up and fight back the best you can. I will fight back, as fast as I can’ he said.