A LEADING health expert in Tayside has revealed how a landmark new treatment, which will be offered to some lung cancer patients in the area, could help to prolong people’s lives.
The Scottish Medicines Consortium this week recommended the adoption of nivolumab as a treatment for advanced lung cancer patients on the NHS.
Eligible patients in Tayside, where the incidence rate of lung cancer is among the highest in the world, will be the first in the UK to access the life-extending treatment and will be ahead of those patients in England and Wales.
Dr Hannah Lord, consultant in clinical oncology at Ninewells, told the Tele: “One of the main benefits of nivolumab is that it is less toxic, meaning there are less serious side- effects than previous treatments.
“This means patients can tolerate it more easily and we can offer it to more patients, as sometimes the side effects of cancer treatments are too much for people to cope with.
“It is also more effective and, while each patient is different, it can prolong survival by up to 50% in those with advanced lung cancer. For example, life expectancy can increase from six months to nine.
“Nivolumab is an immunotherapy, which is different to chemotherapy in that it is more targeted and can hone in on cancer cells, which is why it is more effective and less toxic.”
Dr Lord added: “In terms of the rest the UK, incidence rates in Scotland are higher on the whole, but in areas of deprivation, which unfortunately includes Dundee, they are higher still.
“We have to get the particulars written up before the drug will be available but I don’t think this will take long.
“In an important area of need, where there is a potentially more effective and better tolerated treatment available, it’s vital to ensure that it can be put into use as soon as possible.”
The treatment has already received positive responses from patients.
A 71-year-old woman from the city, who has battled the disease, underwent five rounds of the treatment and said: “I get the results of my scan at the end of the month, so I can’t say for sure what the impact has been just yet.
“What I can say is that I have not had any side-effects at all, unlike chemotherapy and other treatments, which often result in bad bouts of sickness.
“Nivolumab is a very different and easier approach so far.”
This decision by the Scottish Medicines Consortium focuses on a specific form of advanced lung cancer which has spread and is incurable.
In 2014, around 5,300 people were diagnosed with all types of lung cancer in Scotland, with a majority diagnosed at an advanced stage.
The prognosis for survival in these patients is poor, with just 10% of patients in Scotland surviving five years or more.