Asbestos Cancer Survivor Says Latest Delay To NICE Announcement Must Be The Last
A former builder whose asbestos-related cancer reduced after trialling a new treatment has expressed his hope that the ‘miracle’ drug he took will soon be available via the NHS.
Michael Conway, 71, from Milton Keynes was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2017, a cancer of the lining of the lungs associated with exposure to asbestos, often decades previously.
A place on a research programme led to successful treatment that has transformed Mick’s life.
With a December announcement from NICE on the drug delayed until 28 April, Mick is calling for this latest delay to be the last and for the treatment that did so much for him to be more widely available for others with similar conditions.
Following his diagnosis, Mick, instructed specialist asbestos-related disease lawyers at Irwin Mitchell to investigate his illness and where his exposure may have taken place.
Mick’s legal team, led by Satpal Singh, referred him to Professor Dean Fennell, Director of the Mesothelioma Research Programme at the Leicester Cancer Research Centre.
Professor Fennell was working on the CheckMate-743 immunotherapy drug trial, with other international mesothelioma specialists. The clinical trial evaluated the use of Nivolumab (Opdivo) in combination with Ipilimumab (Yervoy), compared to chemotherapy treatment in patients who had previously untreated malignant pleural mesothelioma.
Following the treatment, Mick’s tumours shrank from 21mm and 29mm to just 5mm and he has now lived five years past his original prognosis date. The Mesothelioma has reduced and is now stable.
Commenting on his experiences and the forthcoming NICE announcement, Mick said: “Five years ago, my mesothelioma diagnosis turned our family’s world upside down. The Checkmate trial has given me time with my family I never thought I would have and I’m determined that others should be able to benefit in the same way.
“I was lucky to have lawyers who were aware that I might be eligible for this drug trial and by choosing a law firm with recognised mesothelioma specialists, I had the opportunity to access the latest treatments I would have been unaware of otherwise.
“With a positive announcement, mesothelioma patients will have the same chance at life as I did. Those living with cancer don’t have time to wait and the latest delay from NICE must be the last. It would be devastating if people can’t access this treatment via the NHS, so I’m staying positive the decision we get in April will be the right one and deliver hope to others with this cancer.”
The checkmate trail involved Nivolumab and Ipilimumab, that work by boosting the immune system to attack the cancer. Mick tolerated the treatment well and despite some side effects, including hepatitis that paused Mick’s trial in December 2017, he felt well.
Mick added: “Satpal helped me win my case against my previous employers and they have agreed to fund treatment recommended for me. While this ensures financial security for Denise and myself, without the drug trial, it’s unlikely I would still be here to see the benefit.
“With a terminal cancer diagnosis, I had nothing to lose and the drug trial gave me a miracle. It’s important now that I help pave the way for others to have the same chance at life that I got.”
Mick is married to wife Denise, 71 years of age and they have two children that are married, Hayley (age 40) Daniel (age 44) and three grandchildren.
Expert Opinion“This is the second time the announcement from NICE has been delayed and together with Mick, we are all looking forward to a positive outcome in April.
“The best part of this job is being able to help people like Mick. His case shows that there is hope following a mesothelioma diagnoses, but he naturally wants to see this more widely available.
“My colleagues and I deal with many mesothelioma cases, so we knew about the clinical trial and were able to put Mick in touch with Professor Fennell and he was accepted onto the CheckMate-743 trial, but not everyone has a law firm to guide them to the best treatment options.
“Making this drug available via the NHS would be a big step forward and after all the delays, a negative announcement would be a blow to so many. There’s a real opportunity here to start to reverse the news of a mesothelioma diagnosis as terminal one into something treatable. Anything less would be a bitter disappointment to others in Mick’s shoes.” Satpal Singh - Senior Associate