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A potentially life-saving cancer drug is to be offered patients

Posted on 11th November 2022 in Medical Negligence

Posted by

Helena Campbell

Associate & Chartered Legal Executive
A potentially life-saving cancer drug is to be offered patients

Triple-negative tumours account for 15% of all breast-cancer cases but are harder to treat - often with poorer outcomes.

Our specialist medical negligence team have acted for many ladies who have suffered a delay in diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer, so this is very welcome news. 

The drug, pembrolizumab, given alongside chemotherapy, can help shrink these tumours and stop them spreading, which is a particularly worrying risk with triple negative cancers which grown and spread quickly.

Expert oncologists have said that the drug could spare some women needing the whole breast removed.

It is already used to give some women with incurable triple-negative breast cancer more months of life but now, the NHS will be able to offer it to women with earlier staged tumours to reduce the risk of the cancer spreading or returning.

Helena Campbell, an Associate in our medical negligence team, was particularly pleased to hear this exciting advancement in medical science, as her mum was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer 12 years ago. 

Helena explains:

“When my mum was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, even though she caught this in the early stages, she did have to undergo a mastectomy.  Thankfully, she is now a 10-year survivor, but a diagnosis of cancer is frightening at any stage.  The chance that other ladies may avoid removal of their breasts and know that there is a drug that may reduce the risk of the cancer returning is most encouraging.”

Triple-negative breast cancer affects about 8,000 women a year.

The cancer cells lack the receptors other breast-cancer drugs target.  Cancer cells use certain proteins to hide from the immune system, enabling them to grow and spread.

But Keytruda, which is delivered directly into the bloodstream every three to six weeks for about a year, blocks one of these proteins.

Baroness Morgan, from Breast Cancer Now, said triple-negative breast cancer was more common in women under 40 and disproportionately affected black women.  She said:

"This new treatment can potentially lead to any detectable cancer disappearing by the time of surgery, meaning patients will then possibly face less invasive, breast-conserving surgery. Furthermore, by significantly reducing the likelihood of breast cancer recurring or spreading to other parts of the body where it becomes incurable secondary breast cancer, this treatment brings precious hope of more lives potentially being saved from this devastating disease."

We act for clients who have suffered a delay in diagnosis and may have a later staged tumour, knowing that there are more treatment options will provide hope that there is a drug available to reduce the risk of the cancer spreading. 

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has approved it for use in England. Wales and Northern Ireland normally follow NICE decisions.

 

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