Could this man hold the key to future cancer treatment?

  • Video report and words by ITV News Correspondent Rupert Evelyn

By rights, Dr James Hull should be dead.

For 10 years, numerous cancers have been trying to kill him, including the aggressive pancreatic cancer.

For the retired dentist it has been an extremely difficult decade - but now he hopes he may be the key to finding the cure for certain cancers.

Remarkably, Dr Hull is still alive because his body is able to fight off some cancers - and he believes it’s a gift that needs to be explored.

What the science has shown is that his white blood cells - known as T-cells - are attacking his tumours.

Usually, cancer creates a hostile environment for T-cells but in his case, they appear to overcome it.

And crucially in the lab they have been cloned and kept the ability to fight off cancer cells, even in other patients.

Speaking to ITV News, Dr Hull said: "I'm trying to find, and I know this is a big statement and I don't say it lightly, I'm trying to find the cure for cancer."

He continued: "I've met the other survivors - and they were like me. They had very nasty, aggressive malignancies; and they're alive and we'll share a glass of wine and perhaps a beer and we share our stories."

Researchers at Manchester University are looking into cancer treatments. Credit: ITV News

Dr Hull is funding a study by six universities to investigate why some patients with advance cancer remain well after treatment.

The team are particularly interested in those who've had aggressive forms of cancer who've remained free of the disease without treatment for five years or longer.

Dr Hull said: "I'm not a scientist, and I'm certainly not a well-known oncologist, far from it, but logic tells me there has to be a reason why we have survived.

"That's why I just want these people come forward and help."

  • How James' body can clone cells and fight off certain cancer cells

He adds: "I understand, truly, how traumatic it is to go back through it all and retell a story that is a pretty dark story of one's life but I ask people to you know fight that and help us."

Professor Daniel Davis told ITV News new ideas for medicine may come through analysing Dr Hull's body.

He said: "We don't know what we are going to find out, it's an explorative project but it may lead to new ideas about what happens inside a person's body when they have done well on certain treatments and survived cancer, and from that we may see new ideas for medicine to come through."

It seems unlikely James Hull is the only person on the planet with this remarkable ability to keep killer cancers at bay and the key is not just harnessing the potential of his white cells but finding others with a similar traits.

Zoe Evans, a nurse who is helping with the gathering of details of those willing to submit their experiences of surviving cancer told ITV News: "There are some people have had cancer for 40 years and still have cancer.

"It is phenomenal the amount of people that we've taken calls from that are still living with cancer.

"James can't be the only one [to survive]," she added.

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