Cancer doctor who treated Jade Goody dies after 1 in 100,000 reaction to vaccine

A world renowned cancer expert who treated Jade Goody and was praised by Prince William died after a one in 100,000 reaction to a yellow fever jab.

Top oncologist Professor Martin Gore CBE died from organ failure caused by a "very rare complication" just eight days after having the inoculation at a travel clinic earlier this year.

An inquest was told that the risk of an adverse reaction for a 67-year-old was just one in 100,000.

Professor Gore, a leading specialist in melanoma, ovarian and renal cancers, was medical director for ten years at The Royal Marsden Hospital in Chelsea and a Trustee of The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

The top doctor treated reality star Jade Goody as she battled cervical cancer and after her death called for the screening age to be lowered from 25 to 20.

In 2015, the Duke of Cambridge presented Professor Gore with a lifetime achievement award and said the doctor was a 'source of inspiration'.

At the time the prince said: "He is one of the pioneers of 20th-century cancer care, and a friend, colleague and trusted doctor to many.”

St Pancras Coroner's Court heard the professor planned to travel to Tanzania for a week and booked a vaccination appointment at a chemist in Chelsea, west London, on January 2.

He died a day after being admitted to hospital on January 10.

Following the inquest, his son Alex urged people not to be put off vaccinations by the tragic incident.

He said: "Immunology was one of his specialist fields.

"The whole family are and always have been pro-vaccination. The last thing he wants is for people to not get vaccinations."

Yellow fever is transmitted by infected mosquitoes and does not yet have a cure – although several treatments are currently at the experimental stage.

Infectious disease consultant Dr Sanjay Bhagani from the Royal Free Hospital said antibodies in the vaccination could start to mimic the virus in less than one per cent in 100,000 people., with the risk slightly increasing with age.

He said: "There isn't any treatment at the moment to treat yellow fever, either the vaccination related disease or the yellow fever disease.

"In a small percentage of people especially people with immune deficiencies the virus can replicate and cause a disease that mimics the yellow fever disease that you see naturally.

"As far as we were aware Professor Gore did not have any immune deficiency. It's a very rare complication of yellow fever vaccination."

Senior Coroner Mary Hassell heard Professor Gore arrived at A&E at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital on January 9 – just seven days after the vaccination – complaining of feeling unwell, lethargic and cold.

Dr Michelle Hayes, a consultant in the intensive care department, said in a statement: "He had a previous diagnosis of Hepatitis B in the 70s otherwise he was fit and well.

"He was not on any medication and had no known drug allergies and no previous surgery.

"He appeared critically unwell with evidence of multiple organ failure. He was becoming increasingly unwell after his vaccination.

"Our working diagnosis was that of acute multiple organ failure due to yellow fever vaccination."

Professor Gore was transferred to the Royal Free Hospital that evening via an ambulance and was cared for by both intensive care and the infectious disease teams.

Dr Sanjay Bhagani added: "Clearly it was a very high concentration of the virus which led to other complications.

"Unfortunately despite maximum support, steroids and antibiotics, his condition continued to deteriorate overnight and then he died the following morning."

Asked by the coroner why Professor Gore reacted so severely to the vaccination despite having no history of immune deficiency and being a 'very fit chap', the consultant said: "I can't find any other explanation apparent from that he was over the age of 60.

"Once the virus starts to replace at this rate and you're starting to get manifestations of early infection the risk is always very high. At this stage mortality is almost 50 to 60 per cent.

"Once the virus starts to replicate it starts doing this huge inflammatory response. We were hoping to try to switch that off if we possibly could, but we couldn't."

When Alex Gore asked the doctor whether a possible experimental treatment could have been used to help treat his father, he said the 67-year-old was not stable enough for the medication to be considered.

The drug is currently undergoing human safety tests in Brazil, the inquest heard, but can be requested for us in special circumstances – what is 'compassionate grounds' – in the UK.

The coroner heard a vaccination against yellow fever is not required for travellers to Tanzania, but is recommended for anyone who may be passing through an at-risk country for more than twelve hours.

In a statement, a solicitor instructed on behalf of Boots UK Limited said pharmacists at the chain's travel clinics use a software that help them to assess a travellers risk during an appointment.

The lawyer said the professor had been advised of the potential side effects before he had the vaccine and that he left the shop "without any apparent issues."

Boots later provided another statement to the coroner defending the software – which the inquest heard had 'recommended' Professor Gore have the yellow fever vaccination despite it not being a requirement of entering the country.

According to the statement, the software follows World Health Organisation guidance which recommends inoculation against yellow fever if a traveller is likely to be exposed to mosquitoes.

Boots said it has now updated its software to change the wording from 'recommended' to 'to be considered' if a traveller falls into this small sub-set.

The coroner recorded a narrative verdict, commenting: "His medical cause of death was multiple organ failure caused by yellow fever vaccination associated disease.

"I make a determination that Professor Gore died of a rare but recognised complication of yellow fever vaccination administered on the 2 January 2019."

Paying tribute to his father outside the inquest, Alex Gore said his father was much loved by patients and family alike.

He said: "His death was very sudden and upsetting.

"He was revered in the medical world and in his field of cancer medicine. He was a world renowned doctor who worked at the The Royal Marsden Hospital for 35 years.

"He was popular and fantastic with all people in all walks of life – not just people who worked with him. He made people smile and life. He was so fun.

"That's why people liked him so much as a doctor beyond the medical side."

Alex said the kind words of people posting online about his father had helped with the grieving process.

"It was very comforting to read what people said about him online after his death, his patients and the relatives of his patients," he added.

"He also had a growing family with four children, three sons and a daughter, and is a grandfather to seven.

"He was aware of the risks and he was a trained medic. They are baffled by his death and they still don't know why it happened.

"We don't blame anyone, it's just an unfortunate thing to happen.

"However it's good to see that Boots have updated their guidance about getting the vaccination.

"We witnessed how hard the Royal Free and Chelsea and Westminster Hospital staff tried to save him, they were amazing and tried everything."

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