Mr Royston Hogan and his wife Anjana found out in 2002 that he had chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) with just five years more to live.
When patient and doctor work together for a better outcome, the journey can prove to be a trailblazer.
Mr Royston Hogan and his wife Anjana found out in 2002 that he had chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) with just five years more to live. Today, Mr Hogan is living a full life and personifies how the best healthcare outcomes are achievable if patients and healthcare workers work in collaboration.
"You have to constantly stay ahead of the disease and know what the best available treatment for the patients is."
– Associate Professor Goh Yeow Tee, Senior Consultant, Department of Haematology, SGH
With a sober diagnosis and grappling with treatment options of a bone marrow transplant or Interferon injections with major side effects, Mr Hogan and Anjana turned to the internet and CML support groups online for answers. They discovered ongoing trials in the United States for a new drug called Imatinib. They were drawn to the fact that patients on it were able to work, a disparity from Interferon injections which have toxic side-effects that would likely result in Mr Hogan’s inability to work full-time."
Parallel to their discovery, Associate Professor Goh Yeow Tee, Senior Consultant at the Department of Haematology, SGH, was the principal investigator running trials for it in Singapore then. He had just ended the trial when Mr Hogan and Anjana came to him for a second medical opinion.
“Mr and Mrs Hogan were very well-informed. They are scientists and have read the literature. They understood the risks and the side effects very clearly,” Prof Goh explained. “I can understand why he wanted to do it. If I were in his position, I would have done the same, knowing what I knew. So that was my yardstick.”
The couple was very happy Mr Hogan did not have to take Interferon injections. Mr Hogan said, “Here’s where science meets emotion. The science for the new drug reported a 40% Imatinib remission rate versus 10% for Interferon, which means the Imatinib success rate is significantly better. The emotion is fear that it won’t work on me. But when you look at it from just the survival rate, it made more sense.”
Prof Goh made arrangements so that the new Imatinib drug was made available for Mr Hogan, and he became the first patient in Singapore to take it as primary therapy outside a clinical trial. In 2003, Mr Hogan and Anjana went on to set up a worldwide online support group for CML patients and their caregivers, sharing their journey and findings with scientific know-how and interpreting information for the CML community. The dedicated couple was instrumental in getting patients around the world to reach Prof Goh and the trials and drugs available for CML treatment.
Prof Goh added, “We have to constantly stay ahead of the disease and know what the best available treatment for the patients is. If a drug is going to be useful for the patients, we should try to fight to start the trial - which is what we had to do because Singapore was not established as a trial centre at that time. With these trials, our patients can have access to an alternative if they start being resistant to a drug.”