Health $ Lifestyle

Dying man, 35, reveals how his HEADACHES turned out to be terminal brain cancer – and his only hope is a £250,000 tumour-killing injection not yet offered on the NHS

  • The 35-year-old compared his headaches to a ‘bomb going off’ inside his head 
  • He blames his 4x4x4cm brain tumour for years of anxiety and depression 

A dying man has been given less than two years to live after medics failed to spot his incurable brain cancer

Matthew Collins, from South Wales, began suffering from thunderclap headaches in summer 2023 and was prescribed painkillers by his GP.

The 35-year-old then had seizures and, after a hospital stay, was told he faced a wait of up to one year for an MRI scan.

After his symptoms continued to worsen and he suffered a stroke, he was eventually diagnosed with glioblastoma, a type of fast-growing brain tumour that can carry a life expectancy of just 12 to 18 months from diagnosis. 

While Mr Collins has had surgery to remove the tumour, he faces months of radiotherapy and treatment. 

Mr Collins, who used to work in communications at a university, is now fundraising in the hope of making £250,000 to pay for a potentially life-prolonging injection, which isn’t available on the NHS.

Matthew Collins, 35, from South Wales, was diagnosed with brain cancer after suffering from severe headaches and a stroke

Matthew Collins, 35, from South Wales, was diagnosed with brain cancer after suffering from severe headaches and a stroke

Pictured: Mr Collins (right) with friends Richie Anderson (left) and Luke Bolch (centre)

Pictured: Mr Collins (right) with friends Richie Anderson (left) and Luke Bolch (centre)

Mr Collins began suffering from severe headaches ‘unlike anything [he’d] experienced before’ in July 2023.

He said they would cause 20 to 30 second of pain every 10 to 15 minutes.

‘It felt like someone was hitting my head with a sharp object, but deep within my head, like a bomb going off’, he told MailOnline. 

Concerned, he went to see his GP who told him to get an eye test and prescribed naproxen, an anti-inflammatory drug and painkiller.

Mr Collins said: ‘I went the following day to the opticians, and everything was normal. I was referred back to the GP.’

What is DCVax-L vaccine and how does it work?

Glioblastomas are the most aggressive form of brain tumour in adults and have devastating effects for those diagnosed, with an average survival time of around 12-18 months following diagnosis.

 A study, published in, found that in newly-diagnosed glioblastomas, adding DCVax-L to standard chemotherapy offered patients nearly three months additional life on average, compared to temozolomide therapy alone.

DCVax-L has been developed by Northwest Biotherapeutics, a pharmaceutical firm based in Maryland, US.

It is created for each patient individually by isolating specific immune cells, known as dendritic cells, from the patient’s blood.

These cells are then primed with biomarkers or ‘antigens’ from a sample of the patient’s tumour.

When the vaccine containing the cells is injected back into the patient, they ‘share’ that information with the body’s immune system.

This allows the body to recognise the target, which it begins to attack.

Source: The Brain Tumour Charity 


However, it was the weekend and before he could book an appointment, he suffered a tonic-clonic seizure — which causes the muscles to stiffen and twitch.

Mr Collins was taken to Prince Charles Hospital but discharged at 2am.

However, on the way home, he suffered another seizure and he returned to A&E. That night, he he had more seizures and was admitted to intensive care. 

Mr Collins had a CT scan and was discharged four days later, but was told the wait time for an MRI scan could be almost a year. 

A month later, he woke up and was unable to move the left side of his body.

He went back to A&E at Prince Charles Hospital and had another CT scan, which showed he had had a medium-sized hemorrhagic stroke.

As a result, he was left with slurred speech and complete paralysis of the left hand.

After insisting on an MRI, he was told by doctors that although his stroke had been ‘very large’, there was no evidence of an underlying tumours or sign of an aneurysm.

On August 30, Mr Collins was sent to Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda, a stroke rehabilitation unit, where he was sent home after two weeks for community rehab. 

But his headaches returned at the end of September. 

This time, medics at Prince Charles Hospital performed a CT scan for reassurance, but discovered a brain tumour — an abnormality medics failed to spot in July. 

A week later, he had the tumour removed and was diagnosed with Glioblastoma — the most aggressive tumor that can form in the brain.

Around 2,500 people are diagnosed every year in the UK, while the figure is 12,000 in the US.

Mr Collins credits his girlfriend Claire Hawkins’ ‘nagging’ and concern for saving his life. In a blog post, he wrote: ‘It was Claire’s nagging for me to get back to hospital after my stroke that led to the tumour being found. 

‘Without her, I’d more than likely be already dead because of the amount of swelling and pressure they found in my head.’ 

Mr Collins said he has suffered with depression and anxiety for most of his adult life, making him struggle with relationships and his own self esteem.

But he now believes it was caused by the brain tumour.  

‘Turns out the old tumour has probably been sitting there dormant for years, pressing down on the part of my brain where all my personality, emotion and memory is stored’, he wrote. 

Mr Collins pictured with his girlfriend, Claire Hawkins, who encouraged him to go back to the doctors after the headaches returned

Mr Collins pictured with his girlfriend, Claire Hawkins, who encouraged him to go back to the doctors after the headaches returned

Mr Collins (pictured centre) with school friend Ted (left) and Aimee Collins (right)

Mr Collins (pictured centre) with school friend Ted (left) and Aimee Collins (right)

‘The tumour made me question my self-worth, withdraw for years from my friends and family and shut myself away from the world, making me feel like I didn’t belong anywhere. It drained so much energy just to try and force myself to feel some joy in living life.’

Now Mr Collins faces months of radiotherapy and treatment.

However, he has launched a Go Fund Me page in the hopes of raising £250,000 for a DCVax-L vaccine.

The jab is a type of immunotherapy. To make the jab, scientists combine cancer-killing cells, called dendritic cells, with proteins from brain tumour cells. It is hoped the vaccine will help the immune system to recognise and kill brain tumour cells.

Mr Collins hopes Dc-VaxL will double prolonging his life. 

Mr Collins said: ‘I don’t know exactly how long I’ll have left, or what state of health I’ll be in as the cancer eats away at my body. 

‘Eventually, it will invade the part of my brain that controls my vital organs and then it will shut them off. I may lose my vision or any of my senses at any moment.’

The £250,000 would cover a lump sum of £75,000 to start the process of developing the personalised medication, before then spending £25,000 on the first three doses.

If successful he will then enter the ‘booster phase’, which will see him have an additional three doses in the first year of treatment. 

Providing the jab works for Mr Collins, he will then be given doses twice a year — taking the total by the end of year 2 to £200,000.

It will then set him back a further £50,000 a year to keep him fighting the cancer in his brain. It means £250,000 could help Mr Collins say alive for three years.

So far, his fundraiser has reached more than £28,000 in a week.

‘If you are able to help in any way, I cannot express how grateful me, my family and friends would be for giving me a fighting chance at life,’ he said.

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