A County Durham woman who has been battling ovarian cancer for more than five years has become the first in the UK to benefit from new drug, Niraparib, to prevent a recurrence of the disease.
The 46-year-old, who does not want to be named, is a patient of Dr Talal Mansy, a consultant medical oncologist at The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.
Dr Mansy was able to secure the drug, Niraparib, for his patient on the NHS through an application to a special ‘Early Access Program’ that has seen her become the first UK patient outside of clinical trials to use it.
Dr Mansy explained the drug is one of a new class called PARP inhibitors, which has recently been shown to benefit most patients with recurrent ovarian cancer who are “responding to platinum based chemotherapy”.
Dr Mansy said: “When used as a maintenance treatment following platinum chemotherapy, it helps to prolong the time it takes for ovarian cancer to flare up [recur].”
He added the greatest benefit has been seen in patients with the gene mutation BRCA, which makes them more susceptible to certain cancers, in particular breast and gynaecological cancers.
“Niraparib is still awaiting a European licence for this form of maintenance treatment though it got a licence in the USA in March 2017,” he said.
“I have been extremely fortunate to be able to access it early, before European approval and certainly before it has been evaluated by NICE for use within the NHS.”
The married patient said she was delighted that the drug could offer her the chance to “lead as normal a life as possible” with her diagnosis, including looking forward to forthcoming exotic holidays abroad.
She said: “When you are poorly like this and you have been battling cancer for five years, all you want is to be back to normal.”
The lady’s cancer was discovered in 2011, after surgery to remove what was initially thought to be a benign cyst led to her left ovary being completely removed and sent away for precautionary testing.
Within days, at just 41, she learned the devastating news that cancer had been discovered and was thought to have started in either her ovary or fallopian tube.
A full hysterectomy followed and it was thought the cancer had been cured.
“I was shocked, but we just got on with our lives,” the patient said.
“We didn’t really talk about it that much. Initially they were sure they had got rid of it all, but just needed to check.”
However, later appointments revealed further microscopic cells had been discovered and follow up chemotherapy was required.
“It’s such a big relief to know that this is available and I can keep things at bay for longer with this drug.”
Ovarian Cancer Patient, 46, County Durham
Six months later and while still subject to regular testing, raised lymph nodes triggered alarm bells and this latest “flare up” was treated with further chemotherapy.
The patient was also put on the maintenance drug Avastin.
Unfortunately, further flare ups saw traces of cancer being discovered on the patient’s liver, and she needed surgery to remove this.
Further spots have also been found on the patient’s liver and kidney and treated with chemotherapy earlier this year.
The continuous flare ups and repeated need for chemotherapy prompted her to continuously ask about the possibility of further maintenance drugs – and Dr Mansy to eventually suggest Niraparib.
“It’s such a big relief to know that this is available and I can keep things at bay for longer with this drug,” said the patient.
“Both me and my husband are over the moon and can’t thank Dr Mansy enough.”
Dr Mansy said: “It is extremely exciting for James Cook to be able to offer our patients the newest treatments to help them obtain the best possible outcome for their cancer.
“I would like to say a special thank you to the Trust for allowing me to use this drug, as well as to the Trust Pharmacy team and the Outpatient Clinic Nurses for making this possible.”