If charisma could conquer cancer, John Murphy would have singlehandedly banished his disease. But as he sees it, it has taken legions of people — from clinicians and researchers to family and friends — for him to outlive the stage IV melanoma that was spreading throughout his body two years ago. Back then, his doctors told him that the disease might end his life within a few months.
With candor and passion as well as down-to-earth warmth and wit, this retired lawyer has become a powerful spokesperson, sharing his experience as a clinical trial participant to inspire donors and educate medical professionals. John also extends his outreach to fellow patients who, like him, would gladly trade the looming certainty of a dire prognosis for the hope and unknowns of experimental therapy.
“I’m getting calls from four-stagers,” says John. “Some never hear of these trials.” By addressing oncologists at their nationwide conferences, John is striving to increase communication between patients and their physicians about promising new treatments.
After John was diagnosed in his home state of Colorado, his brother, Martin J. Murphy Jr., MD, referred him to the Mass General Cancer Center, where he joined the first worldwide clinical trial of a drug combining BRAF and MEK inhibitors, a regimen that targets cancer on a molecular level.
Now with his disease under control, John has resumed mountain climbing and often tells people, “I was born at St. Luke’s Hospital in Denver, and reborn at Mass General in Boston.”