Mother diagnosed with bile duct cancer aided by revolutionary new drug

Gravely ill mother, 38, diagnosed with bile duct cancer gets new lease of life after revolutionary daily drug extends her life and helps keeps disease at bay

  • Mother-of-four Kadiatou Diallo was told she has just weeks to live after diagnosis
  • But ten months later a new drug has slowed progression of her bile duct cancer 
  • Doctors at The Christie Hospital in Manchester are testing revolutionary tablet
  • Tests showed her tumours had shrunk by 87 per cent following use of the drug

When mother-of-four Kadiatou Diallo set about choosing her burial plot, after being given a diagnosis of terminal cancer, her heartbroken husband Alpha, 45, had just one request. ‘He insisted it be somewhere close to home, so that he and the children could come and visit me often,’ says Kadiatou, 38.

It’s the kind of agonising conversation couples face when one is told they may have just weeks to live.

And Kadiatou had just been given the devastating news that she had bile duct cancer, a condition that strikes 1,000 Britons a year, and kills most within months.

But that was nearly ten months ago.

Today Kadiatou, who is originally from Guinea in West Africa and has lived in the UK for nearly 20 years, is feeling better than she has done in years – thanks to a revolutionary new tablet being put on trial by British medics.

Mother-of-four Kadiatou Diallo (pictured with her two children) had her tumours shrink by 87 per cent after taking the revolutionary drug

The breakthrough may throw a lifeline to patients suffering what is often deemed a near hopeless cancer.

‘I feel fantastic,’ says full-time mum Kadiatou, who, just a few months ago, was in such agony that she was reliant on powerful morphine painkillers.

‘I’m full of energy now, and have no pain. Things feel normal – it’s like I’ve been given a second chance.’

The drug is not a cure. But doctors at The Christie Hospital in Manchester, where the groundbreaking new daily tablet, codenamed TAS-120, is being tested, admit that it’s a remarkable transformation.

Professor Juan Valle, a cancer specialist who is leading the trial, said: ‘The drug is extending Kadiatou’s life and keeping the cancer at bay. We are delighted.’

The bile duct system, or biliary system, is made up of a series of tubes that begin in the liver and end in the small intestine. Their job is to transport bile, a fluid the digestive system uses to help break down fats and digest foods.

Bile duct cancer, or cholangiocarcinoma, kills over 90 per cent of victims within five years – and just 30 per cent of men, and 25 per cent of women, live more than one year after diagnosis. It is often only spotted during the later stages, when symptoms can include jaundice – yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes, itchy skin, pale stools and dark-coloured urine – dramatic, unintentional weight loss, and abdominal pain.

Standard treatments include surgery to remove the tumour and either chemotherapy and radiotherapy – or both – to try to destroy any lingering cancer cells. But many patients fail to respond to these, and there are few other effective treatments.

The new drug could change all that for some sufferers. It belongs to a group of experimental new anti-cancer medicines, called ‘FGFR’ inhibitors, standing for fibroblast growth factor receptors. These are tiny ‘locks’ on the surface of many different cells in the body, which allow a protein called fibroblast growth factor to get in. It helps cells grow.

But ten to 15 per cent of bile duct cancers have a genetic mutation which means this growth factor drives the development of cancerous cells, rather than healthy ones. By blocking the lock that allows the protein to connect with the cells, the drug stops the cancer in its tracks.

And since these kinds of receptors are found on numerous cancer cell types, TAS-120 is just one of several FGFR inhibitors being investigated as a treatment for advanced tumours, such as those affecting the breast, bowel, bladder and lung.

Prof Valle says the drug will not necessarily work for every patient with advanced bile duct cancer, just the ten to 15 per cent who have tumours with the relevant defect.

Doctors at The Christie Hospital in Manchester, where the groundbreaking new daily tablet, codenamed TAS-120, is being tested, said it was a remarkable transformation for Ms Diallo

Early trial results are promising. Although the pill has only been tested on small numbers of patients, studies suggest it can hold the disease at bay, and shrink tumours.

Kadiatou, from Beeston near Leeds, first got ill in 2016 after the birth of her fourth child, Amadou, when a routine blood test revealed a problem with her liver enzymes.

Further tests confirmed cancer of the bile duct. ‘It was terrifying,’ says Kadiatou, who has three other sons aged 16, 14 and ten. ‘I realised I was in big trouble.’

Initially, treatment was successful and she was in remission for just over a year. But in 2018, tests revealed the cancer was back and this time it had spread to her pancreas, a nearby gland that is also connected to the digestive system.

Kadiatou’s health spiralled downwards and her tumours failed to respond to treatment until finally, in early 2019, she was told the cancer had spread to her liver and spine and there was nothing else doctors could do.

‘I just cried all the time at the thought of leaving behind my husband and children,’ she says. ‘I begged doctors to help because my babies were too young to lose me.’

In a last-ditch bid to help, Kadiatou’s doctor referred her to The Christie Hospital in Manchester to see if she was suitable to take part in the TAS-120 trial. Test results confirmed her cancer was the type that could respond, and in July last year she took her first pill.

Kadiatou says: ‘Within three days I was back to normal. I no longer felt ill or exhausted and the horrible pain I had, from being treated with morphine, had vanished.’

Tests showed her tumours had shrunk by 87 per cent.

It’s likely to be at least a year before TAS-120 is widely available on the NHS. But Prof Valle believes it could buy many more terminally ill patients precious time with their loved ones – and with a good quality of life.

Kadiatou says: ‘I had spoken to the undertakers and organised my whole funeral. I knew exactly where I wanted to be buried. But now I have a new lease of life.

‘Our prayers were answered – you must never give up and never refuse a trial if it’s offered to you.’

To find out more about joining a clinical trial for cancer therapies, visit

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