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Friday 19 July 2019

'I'm over the moon', says star Christy as treatment offers cancer cure hope

Singer Christy Dignam told of his joy at new treatment
Singer Christy Dignam told of his joy at new treatment

Aslan frontman Christy Dignam says he has been given new hope after learning of a breakthrough in the cancer he is fighting.

Speaking ahead of his gig at Longford's Summer Festival last night, he said: "I'm over the moon. It's like a death sentence being lifted. It's incredible."

Dignam (59), from Finglas, broke the good news on the Ray D'Arcy Show on RTE Radio One yesterday after learning researchers believe they have turned a corner in battling the rare cancer-related disease amyloidosis.

The singer has been undergoing treatment, including gruelling chemotherapy, since he was diagnosed with the life-threatening illness seven years ago.

"They've just discovered a cure for amyloidosis, which is amazing," he told RTE.

"Up to now it was untreatable, there was no cure for it. They just found a cure."

The disease is characterised by a build-up of abnormal protein deposits in the tissues and organs.

It was the same disease that claimed the life of former Northern Ireland deputy first minister Martin McGuinness at the age of 66 in 2017.

Signal

"What happens is my DNA tells my liver to produce a negative protein, which is cancerous," Dignam said.

"This new treatment blocks the signal from your DNA to your liver.

"So, it's a cure. It stops it being terminal - it's amazing."

Christy has been going for chemotherapy at the Royal Free Hospital in London every two months.

He said the gruelling treatment was doing "more damage" to his body.

However, now that the new gene-silencing drug known as patisiran has been approved for use through the NHS in the UK, Christy hopes the HSE will follow suit.

He said his first thought was for those people who have received a grim diagnosis of cancers for which there are no cures.

"I actually feel guilty. The first feeling I had was guilt - you feel unworthy or something. Maybe it's just me," he said.

"I was thinking of other people who don't have cures."

Prof Philip Hawkins, head of the National Amyloidosis Centre at the Royal Free Hospital, said the decision to make patisiran available through the NHS was an important step in the treatment of a disease that is life-threatening to patients and devastating for families.

"Patisiran has shown in its main clinical study that it can halt or even improve potentially debilitating symptoms of this disease in the majority of patients," he said.

"This means we now have a real possibility of preserving quality of life for eligible patients for longer than has so far been possible.

"Gene silencing is a promising area of medicine.

"It is heartening to see this science translating into treatments that can potentially help those suffering from serious illnesses like amyloidosis."

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