A cancer-stricken mother told she was weeks away from death has experienced an astounding recovery after paying for an experimental treatment.

Liz Sheppard, who suffers from an aggressive form of small cell stomach cancer, said she had 'nothing to lose' when she tried immunotherapy in a last-ditch attempt to beat the disease.

But the private treatment proved to be a 'game-changer', shrinking a large tumour on her neck and restoring her energy levels.

The 36-year-old's response has been so positive that her doctors are considering publishing the results in a medical journal.


Immunotherapy is a pioneering treatment that uses the body's own immune system to fight off cancer. Normally our immune system targets and destroys faulty cells.

But some cells, like cancerous ones, are able to hide themselves from the immune system, and so develop into tumours.

Traditional cancer drugs target the cancer cells themselves, but immunotherapy reawakens the immune system so it can 'remember' the cancer and stop it in its tracks.

Mrs Sheppard, a married mother-of-three from Nottingham, was diagnosed with the rare form of cancer in 2015. She underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy, but last August was told the cancer was terminal after another tumour was discovered in her stomach.

Doctors said she had just 'weeks or short months to live'.

But Mrs Sheppard refused to give up and began researching alternative treatments.
She decided to pay privately for immunotherapy, which the NHS will only fund to treat skin and kidney cancer.

Bosses are still deciding whether to pay for it to be used on lung cancer and Hodgkin's lymphoma patients.

With the help of donations from friends, Mrs Sheppard has so far undergone six sessions, using immunotherapy drug nivolumab, at a cost of £5,000 each - with miraculous results.

"The treatment has never been tested for my type of cancer, so essentially I've paid to experiment on myself," Mrs Sheppard told the BBC.

"I had a huge tumour on my neck that was like a golf ball sticking out, but I got up one morning and the tumour had just gone.

"Palliative chemo is so debilitating and I couldn't get out of bed, but now I can live a fairly normal life."

Her quality of life has improved to such an extent that staff at Leaders in Oncology Care, a specialist cancer treatment centre in London, have described her as a 'firebomb'.

Jane Lynch, senior lung clinical nurse specialist and respiratory service lead, said that before the treatment Mrs Sheppard could 'barely get out of the chair'.

"She was unable to look after her children and she needed help with everyday life," she said.

"Since immunotherapy... she has gained energy and the last time I saw her she was like a little firebomb." A year's worth of therapy costs around £120,000, and Mrs Sheppard only has enough money to pay for six more sessions.

But Mrs Sheppard says she needs more funds in order to keep the treatment going. Photo / Facebook: @Immunotherapy for Liz Sheppard Hardy
But Mrs Sheppard says she needs more funds in order to keep the treatment going. Photo / Facebook: @Immunotherapy for Liz Sheppard Hardy

She is now in a 'life or death' situation trying to raise more money to fund the rest.

"The money is drying up, but this treatment is saving my life," she said. "It's available on the NHS but not for my type of cancer, I'm just hoping and praying for the best.

"Only time will tell and I'm still classed as terminal, but I wasn't prepared to just give up and die."

She added: "I know this isn't suitable for every type of cancer, but when you've got nothing left and there's no other option you'd try anything."

Mrs Sheppard is raising money at justgiving.com/crowdfunding/liz-sheppard-immunotherapy

To donate to Mrs Sheppard's appeal, visit justgiving.com/crowdfunding/liz-sheppard