Families who have lost a loved one to pancreatic cancer are joining forces with the national charity, Pancreatic Cancer UK, to spearhead a new campaign calling for key decision makers to add the recently licensed chemotherapy drug Abraxane® to the updated Cancer Drugs Fund list.
Earlier this month, Abraxane® (in combination with standard chemotherapy, gemcitabine) was licensed for use in patients, in the UK and Ireland, with metastatic pancreatic cancer (i.e. where the disease has spread from the original site to other organs).
However, the drug – being hailed as the biggest advance in almost 20 years in the fight against the disease – has not yet been approved by the NHS watchdog NICE, depriving many patients from the potential life-extending benefits of the drug. The only hope for patients wanting to access Abraxane® is for the drug to be included in the Government’s Cancer Drugs Fund (worth £200 million per year) list which is due to be updated following a panel meeting next Thursday (6March). To date, Abraxane® has been found to extend a patients’ life for on average 2 months, however in some instances it has given people significantly more time.
In response to feedback from patients, families and carers – who have told the charity they would have “done anything” to have had “just two more months” – Pancreatic Cancer UK is today launching a campaign highlighting what precious time with loved ones would have meant to families.
Alex Ford, CEO of Pancreatic Cancer UK, comments; “As a charity which offers a specialist support service, we take many calls from devastated families following the loss of a loved one – and all too often they tell us that it all happened so quickly and that any amount of extra time, however small would have made a huge difference. This might be time that would have enabled them to complete a degree, walk down the aisle or live long enough to witness the birth of their first grandchild.”
Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all of the 21 most common cancers in the UK with only about 4% of people diagnosed surviving five years or more. This figure has hardly changed in 40 years. It is predicted that by 2030 pancreatic cancer will overtake breast cancer as the 4th most common cancer killer.
With so few treatment options for patients, Pancreatic Cancer UK believes Abraxane® should be made available for free as a matter of urgency, at the point of access.
Alex Ford adds; “We urge the panel meeting next week to consider the very real benefits of Abraxane® – not in terms of statistics and cost efficiencies but in terms of time. Something none of us can put a price on.”