Sunday 22 September 2019

'No exclusions' - oncologist seeks funding for trial to give advanced cancer drug to sufferers


Vicky Phelan. Picture: Frank McGrath
Vicky Phelan. Picture: Frank McGrath
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Efforts are still under way to try to secure extra funding for a clinical trial to give an advanced drug to women with cervical cancer who are outside the 221 CervicalCheck group, an oncologist said yesterday.

Dr David Fennelly of St Vincent's Hospital said he was trying to raise philanthropic funding after the Oireachtas health committee was told the drug Pembrolizumab is still only being given by the HSE to women caught up in the CervicalCheck scandal who are suitable. Others are excluded.

Vicky Phelan, who has cervical cancer, credits Pembrolizumab with shrinking her tumours.

The committee was told by Labour TD Alan Kelly the divide would "explode in everyone's face" and was discriminatory.

HSE chief pharmacist Shaun Flanagan said it was likely to be 2021 before it was licensed for treating cervical cancer. It costs €8,500 every three weeks.

However, Dr Fennelly told the Irish Independent he was still hopeful of getting funding to do a second trial of the drug, which would allow women outside the CervicalCheck group to be tested to see if it would work.

He said he had already been turned down for funding by the Department of Health and the drug maker Merck.

He was now trying to raise funding from philanthropic sources. "The trial would involve women with cervical cancer who have failed standard treatment. There would be no exclusions," he said. "We would treat every woman who had cancer that was recurrent or metastatic."

There was data on its use for treating cervical cancer from the United States.

"If we can get more evidence on efficacy, it will result in quicker licensing," he added. "We want to make it available to patients nationally with this disease."

Irish Independent

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