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Baker backs bowel study

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Six years ago Grant Baker was enjoying his position as Executive Chairman of 42 Below Ltd.

It had just been recognised by Deloitte as New Zealand's fastest growing business and apart from some nausea and stomach cramps, life was good. The worsening cramps forced Baker reluctantly to the doctor.

He was referred for a colonoscopy and immediately given a diagnosis of bowel cancer. That same day, Baker was introduced to the surgeon who would remove a cancerous tumour almost totally blocking his colon.

New Zealand has one of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the developed world. Approximately 2,700 new cases are diagnosed a year.

Like most bowel cancer patients, Baker had surgery and then a 24 week course of chemotherapy. Now, as deputy chairman of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Institute (known as GICI, a not-for-profit registered charity), he's asking New Zealanders to support an exciting new medical study that, if successful, could see chemotherapy treatments halved for bowel cancer patients.

The SCOT (Short Course Oncology Therapy) study aims to find if 12 weeks of chemotherapy for bowel cancer is less toxic to patients without being less effective than the current 24 weeks. GICI have currently raised $30,000 out of the $60,000 of funds needed. A small number of places have been approved in Auckland and Wellington.

The main side effects of chemotherapy are; fatigue, nausea, diarrhoea (which can be profound and require admission to hospital) and nerve damage. All patients experience different levels of side effects but they generally worsen as the treatments go on.

In particular, most of the nerve damage happens between weeks 12-24 which results in numbness, tingling and pain in the toes and fingers.

Some will still experience this five years later. Doctors closely monitor the nerve damage and nearly always do dose reduction but it can sometimes happen after the last dose.

Morale also worsens the longer the treatment continues. Baker says of the chemotherapy "it's tough. Each cycle is harder and harder. Near the end of chemotherapy I wasn't sure I'd be able to finish the course. My symptoms got progressively worse." "With the SCOT trial we have a real opportunity to help make a big difference. Cancer changes your perspective on what is important. New Zealand has one of the highest bowel cancer rates in the developed world. We need to be part of this."

Baker still suffers slight numbness is his fingers and feet as an ongoing side effect but after five years he has a clean bill of health. He is currently a director of the boutique investment company, The Business Bakery with former 42 Below directors Geoff Ross and Steve Sinclair.

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