Tuesday 17 October 2017

'It's great to know that I have options' - Mum (34) battling skin cancer welcomes HSE approval for game-changing cancer drug

Cancer sufferer Sarah Lane with her children Joey (19 months), Aoibhin (10) and Grace (8). Photo: Seamus Farrelly
Cancer sufferer Sarah Lane with her children Joey (19 months), Aoibhin (10) and Grace (8). Photo: Seamus Farrelly
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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

An advanced drug that can treat several cancers, including malignant melanoma, will be made available to patients by the HSE from today.

Nivolumab was one of nine new high-tech medicines which were caught in a logjam due to a dispute between the HSE and Department of Health over which would pay the €117m cost.

Hundreds of cancer patients have been looking forward to the go-ahead for the potentially life-extending nivolumab.

It can be used to treat advanced melanoma, kidney cancer and an aggressive blood cancer, classical Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL).

Hairdresser Sarah Lane (34), who was diagnosed with malignant melanoma in May last year, has been through a gruelling journey of treatment and surgery.

But the mother of three from Navan in Co Meath said the go-ahead for Nivolumab was like a "comfort blanket".

Sarah, who is also mother to Aoibhin (10) and Grace (8), became worried about a spot on her upper left back when pregnant with her little boy Joey.

After undergoing tests, she was told she had malignant melanoma.

During the summer, she underwent surgery and is currently undergoing radiotherapy treatment while also on Ipilimumab, another form of immunotherapy. "It's great to know though that there are other options there," she said.

The drug, made by Bristol-Myers Squibb, can be used on its own or in combination with another medicine, ipilimumab, to treat skin cancer.

Nivolumab is one of a revolutionary class of drugs called immunotherapy which work by teaching the body's immune system to fight cancer.

The drug was originally rejected here on cost-efficiency grounds.

At that stage the cost of the revolutionary drug would have ranged from €50,000 to €100,000 per patient, a year.

A spokesman for the company declined to say what was the revised price agreed.

Kay Curtin, of Melanoma Support Ireland, said: "We welcome the news of reimbursement for nivolumab as monotherapy or in combination with ipilimumab for patients living in Ireland with advanced melanoma.

"These ground-breaking treatments will undoubtedly benefit patients, many of whom are struggling to survive this disease and are often from a younger age category to other cancers."

Irish Independent

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