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A Canberra father who died less than a year after being diagnosed with a rare Cancer will leave a lasting legacy with a foundation-supported first Australian studio to begin.

Scientist Matthew Fisher died on January 8 of this year of rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer most common in children.

“He was a kind and gentle person,” his wife Naomi told

“Matt was very reserved, but he really loved life and he was a very positive person. He had a nice presence in him.

“He was also so brave and stoic in the way he fought cancer.”

Matthew Fisher, pictured with his two daughters, Vivi and Sylvie.
Matthew Fisher, pictured with his two daughters, Vivi and Sylvie. (Supplied)

Ms. Fisher said her husband first noticed something was wrong when he lost feeling in his left leg in February of last year.

“A couple of weeks later he found a lump in his pelvis. He went to the GP and after a few days he was quite in pain, so he went to the emergency room,” he said.

It was at Canberra Hospital that he was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma.

“It was like the perfect storm when he was diagnosed. March is when all the coronavirus lockouts started happening. The start of his treatment almost coincided with the day the schools closed,” Fisher said.

Mr. Fisher worked as a chemical patent examiner and had a doctorate in chemistry.

Ms. Fisher said that her husband put his knowledge to good use and thoroughly investigated his illness, making sure he knew the exact composition of the chemotherapy drugs he was taking.

She said they joked that she would be “monitoring her medications to the end, asking the doctors exactly how many milligrams they were giving her.”

The first global study could benefit many

Fisher had a last wish to contribute to further research on sarcoma cancers of the bone and soft tissue, about which little is known.

Fisher endured his grueling chemotherapy treatments with grace and stoicism, friends and family said.
Fisher endured his grueling chemotherapy treatments with grace and stoicism, friends and family said. (Supplied)

Around 1000-1500 patients in Australia are diagnosed with sarcoma each year.

It is one of the less common cancers in adults, but it accounts for about 10 to 15 of all childhood cancers.

“A couple of months before Matt’s death, when we found more metastases, he told me that he would like to create a foundation to raise funds for the research,” Fisher said.

“I just wanted to help other families, so that no family would have to go through what we would go through.”

So far, more than $ 55,000 has been raised through the Matthew Fisher Sarcoma Research Fund, administered by the philanthropic Cooper Rice Brading Foundation.

The study, which will begin in a few weeks, will test a drug commonly used to treat psoriasis in 32 patients with sarcomas over the next 12 to 18 months, said Professor David Thomas, an oncologist and director of cancer at the Garvan Institute.

The study will build on work previously done by researchers at the Garvin Institute that identified a gene, called interleukin-23. as playing an important role in allowing osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, to develop.

Coincidentally, some medications that are already used on the market to treat psoriasis work by blocking the same interleukin-23 gene.

So the researchers tested the drug in mice with osteosarcomas.

“When we used drugs that blocked interleukin-23, we were able to slow growth and shrink tumors when these mice were carrying tumors,” said Professor Thomas.

“The purpose of the study now is to see if the drug will work in patients with sarcomas and if it will work well in patients with psoriasis.

Fisher was diagnosed with a rhabdomyosarcoma in February of last year.
Fisher was diagnosed with a rhabdomyosarcoma in February of last year. (Supplied)

“This will be the first study of its kind around the world, it is breaking new ground. Interleukin-23 may show promise for a wide variety of cancers, but no one has ever treated cancer patients with an interleukin-blocking agent before. -2. 3.

“We have crossed our fingers. If it works, it will open up entirely new treatments for many cancer patients, including sarcoma patients.”

Professor Thomas said that fundraising activities like Fisher’s played a crucial role in enabling the search for new areas of cancer research.

“The first investment in any new area is often supported by philanthropic support rather than government,” he said.

“Philanthropy is catalytic in its ability to take new ideas and bring them to the point where governments can take over where there are signs of promise.

“Studios like ours rely heavily on philanthropic support.”

Tania Cooper-Brading of the Cooper-Brading Foundation said she was in awe of what the Fisher Foundation had accomplished in such a short time.

“We have never, never had a terminal patient who has done so much,” he said.

“It really leaves me speechless. It’s bittersweet. I would have preferred our trial had been up and running so Matt could have been a beneficiary. But it’s an incredible legacy that he’s left behind and will help so many.” . “

Contact reporter Emily McPherson at [email protected]

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