Scotland

Women make plea ahead of decision on breast cancer drug Kadcyla

Lesley Stephen, Alison Tait, Lesley Graham and Anne MacLean-Chang Image copyright Breast Cancer Now
Image caption Lesley Stephen, Alison Tait, Lesley Graham and Anne MacLean-Chang want the drug to be made available on the NHS

A mother campaigning for a life-extending breast cancer drug to be made available on the NHS has said it seems "barbaric" to deny women the treatment.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium is due to take evidence on Kadcyla on Tuesday.

Lesley Graham is one of four women who, along with charity Breast Cancer Now, have launched a petition for it to be approved.

She told BBC Scotland it offered women like her "a little glimmer of hope".

Kadcyla is used to treat a specific type of tumour - HER2-positive - when breast cancer spreads to other parts of the body.

Currently, it is not approved for use on the NHS in Scotland. The SMC is due to reconsider that this week, with its decision to be announced next month.

'Swallowing a hand-grenade'

Last year Ms Graham, a 39-year-old mother of two from Barrhead, wrote to health secretary Shona Robison after being denied the treatment. She was later granted it after a second appeal.

Along with three other woman - Lesley Stephen, Alison Tait and Anne MacLean-Chang - she has been calling for it to be made available automatically on the NHS.

Their petition, backed by the Daily Record newspaper, now has more than 13,000 signatures.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland's Kaye Adams programme, she said: "If there's something out there that can help people, then it needs to be made available.

"The repercussions of someone losing their mum or their daughter are widespread. It has a rippling affect. Everyone deserves a chance at life and every child deserves a mum."

She added: "To be told that you have cancer and your life is therefore limited because of that is devastating enough.

"But to then be told there is something that can potentially buy you some time or keep you well for longer, but you can't have it, seems to me barbaric."

She described living with an incurable cancer as like "swallowing a hand-grenade and not knowing when it is going to go off".

"This treatment offers a little glimmer of hope that it will buy us time and offers hope that in the meantime maybe someone can come up with something that will keep us here in addition to that," Ms Graham said.

Image caption Anne MacLean-Chang was granted the drug in September last year

Breast Cancer Now said there were about 118 women in Scotland who "could benefit from this drug if it was approved tomorrow".

The charity's director Mary Allison said: "The treatment options for this type of breast cancer are relatively limited. Kadcyla is an incredibly effective drug because of the impact it has on the cancer, but also because of the quality of life people are able to have. The side effects of this compared to other chemotherapies are far less.

"This drug is available in 18 other countries in the world. It is a commonly-administered drug and one that many oncologists throughout the UK, and in Scotland, would wish to give their patients.

"It is a proven, front-line treatment for HER2 positive breast cancer."

In September last year, NHS Grampian agreed to give Kadcyla to Anne MacLean-Chang, a nurse from Elgin, after she wrote to the first minister asking for reform of drug funding.

She fought breast cancer but it later spread to her liver.

Speaking to presenter Kaye Adams ahead of the latest meeting of the SMC, she said being told there was a drug available but that she could not have it made her determined to campaign and fundraise to ensure she got the treatment.

"I felt like a bear protecting her cubs because I need to be here for my children," she said.

"Anyone can get cancer or a life-threatening disease but I don't think, in 2017, I ever imagined I would be in the situation where there was a drug available in many parts of the world but I was being told it's out there but you can't have it."


What is Kadcyla and what does it do?

  • Kadcyla is used to treat breast cancer which has spread to other parts of the body.
  • It is made from two cancer-fighting drugs, the monoclonal antibody trastuzumab (Herceptin) and the chemotherapy drug emtansine.
  • The treatment is only right for patients with a certain type of tumour - one that is HER2-positive.
  • Kadcyla has been made to deliver chemotherapy into HER2-positive cancer cells and kill them.
  • It is designed to cause less harm to normal cells.
  • However, there may be side effects to the liver, heart and lungs.

BBC health correspondent Nick Triggle wrote about the drug in 2014, spelling out how its high cost was causing a funding conundrum.

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