Patient Ambassador

Dr John Ashton

Lung Cancer Patient Ambassador

At the age of 48, John Ashton was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer after a chronic cough did not respond to anti-asthma medication. He had never smoked.

John lives on the Otago Peninsula with his wife and two sons, age 15 and 9 years of age and he hasn’t let lung cancer define him.

The cancer could not be removed surgically because it had spread to his other lung. The median survival time for this type of cancer is 9-12 months.  John underwent several rounds of two different types of chemotherapy, but his cancer did not respond and his symptoms remained unchanged.

In January 2014, John found he was a candidate for a very new type of drug, not yet registered in New Zealand, called ALK inhibitors. In February he started taking an ALK inhibitor.  Several weeks later the cough had gone and a CT scan showed clear regression of the secondary tumours.

John has continued taking an ALK inhibitor and the cancer remains under control. He recently ran 7.5 km in 40 minutes.

Having worked initially as a research fellow, Prof. John Ashton works full time as a lecturer at the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Otago.

With the support of his family and the University, John is dedicated to empowering others, by sharing his experience; highlighting the symptoms of lung cancer and emphasising the importance of early detection.

Read more about John Ashton’s story here.

View John Ashton’s Dunedin TV media clip here.