Christian Hinrichs, an oncologist who is suffering from ocular melanoma, has embarked on research with a mission: to eradicate cancer from patients who no longer respond to treatment.
It is often said that shoemakers are the most badly shod. This phrase could apply to the American Christian Hinrichs. So young surgeon oncologist, he learns that he has a melanoma of the eye.
A rare disease, since in the United States, it affects six people in a million. In France, 500 to 600 people contract this cancer each year.
Back to square one
Christian Hinrichs undergoes ablation of the right eye. Enucleation is considered one of the only treatments against the disease. Even if the doctors are optimistic, Christian Hinrichs realizes that he will not be able to do any more surgery: "With the loss of my eye, my perception of depth has been destabilized", he confides to AFP.
One day, thinking of pouring milk into a glass, he hears it flowing on the floor. "I knew I could not operate anymore"continues the doctor.
Christian Hinrichs, after having spent 13 years training to become a surgeon, goes back to studying. And this for four years. He is now in his thirties, is married and is a young father.
Eradicate cancers that do not heal
Today, he is a researcher at the National Cancer Institute and leads the trials to eradicate tumors caused by papillomavirus (HPV). This virus, sexually transmitted, is at the origin of various cancers, like that of the uterus or the throat.
These trials are conducted at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center and focus on patients who no longer respond to conventional treatments (chemotherapy, radiotherapy). A personal fight for Christian Hinrichs, who, now 46 years old, believes that in case of recurrence, his cancer would be considered incurable and therefore fatal.
Billions of lymphocytes injected
Dr. Hinrichs' trial consists of taking lymphocytes from the patient and then culturing them to multiply. Then, billions of lymphocytes are thus reinjected on the patient. An immune invasion against cancer.
This technique has already proven itself. Two women are considered cured of their cervical cancer. They have no trace of the disease for at least five years. In contrast, the majority of them have not recovered.
But Christian Hinrichs remains hopeful of designing new treatments accessible, one day, to the general public.