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Novum Law client Wendy Peake hit the news headlines last year when her pioneering cancer treatment for ocular melanoma, a rare eye cancer, was cancelled due to the first COVID-19 lockdown. She has now smashed her initial £160,000 fundraising target to pay for the treatment privately and is now seeking to raise £80,000 more for two further treatments.
Wendy launched a Go Fund Me page last year when the NHS halted her potentially life-saving clinical trial. The treatment called ‘chemosaturation therapy’, also known as the ‘Delcath Trial’ treats the cancer when it metastasises to the liver. It delivers targeted, concentrated doses of chemotherapy to the liver to shrink cancerous tumours.
Chemosaturation therapy is highly effective at prolonging the lives of people with ocular melanoma. However, it is currently only available privately and is extremely expensive – costing £40,000 per treatment, with up to six treatments required.
There is hope that one day the groundbreaking cancer treatment will be available for everyone on the NHS. NICE (The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) is currently reviewing its use. However, a decision has already been delayed twice because of COVID-19.
Once approved for use by NICE, the therapy will go through the UK’s Regulatory Agency. If successful, individual health authorities will have to apply to Public Health England to fund individual patients’ treatment.
Given the current situation with COVID-19, the whole process could take up to 18 months – a delay that many ocular melanoma patients cannot afford to wait out.
Update on Wendy’s treatment
Wendy and her family’s tremendous fundraising efforts have meant that she has already benefitted from three courses of chemosaturation therapy at the Spire Southampton Hospital.
Following her first treatments, Wendy has had a 50% reduction in the size of her tumours. The disease’s level is now almost back to where it was in March 2020 when the NHS cancelled the clinical trial.
“While my cancer is incurable, the treatment aims to shrink the tumours and stop more from growing. Following each treatment, as the tumours reduce in size, it is a massive bonus for my family and me, buying us more precious time.
“I want to keep having the treatment so that all the good work done so far is not undone. Once, or if, the tumours stop shrinking, the aim is to keep them stable with a ‘top up’ possibly once a year or so.
“We now have the funds for treatment number four because we have had so many generous donations, and I am profoundly grateful. My goal now is to aim for the full six treatments to maximise the excellent work done so far and thoroughly benefit from the therapy. That is why we have now raised our target to £240,000 to pay for six courses of treatment.
“Hopefully, once chemosaturation therapy is available on the NHS, we will not have to keep asking people for money, something we really dislike doing. My husband Andrew and our two daughters, India, and Bella are desperate for me to stay with them for as long as I can. And I don’t want to leave them. We are determined to keep doing what we can to raise awareness and funds for this life-prolonging treatment.
“Looking to the future, who knows what other trials may come along in the next few years that may also help me and others with ocular melanoma?”
Helping ocular melanoma patients
Novum Law’s Mary Smith, a patient safety expert, is supporting Wendy and other cancer patients whose treatment was delayed or cancelled due to coronavirus. She says:
“Unfortunately, there are many more ocular melanoma patients in the UK, like Wendy. They too were told the devastating news last year that the NHS was cancelling their chemosaturation therapy due to COVID-19.
“Sadly, cancer does not stop for pandemics. Research shows that delaying cancer treatment by just four weeks increases the risk of death by up to 10%. Tens of thousands of cancer patients have missed out on vital treatments, tests, and outpatient appointments during the COVID-19 crisis. A long, difficult road is ahead before the NHS will be able to catch up with cancer and ensure all patients get the treatment they need when they need it.”
Ocular melanoma – six in one million
Ocular melanoma affects just six in one million people in the UK every year. Wendy has joined forces with a group of six other women with the disease. These women also had the chance to be on the potentially life-saving Delcath Trial taken away from them. They are:
- Ella – who is just 25 years old and engaged to her partner, Cal.
- Carol – wife, mother and grandmother to three-year-old twin boys, Jack, and James.
- Geraldine – a loving grandmother of four, who has had to sell her house to pay for treatment.
- Lorraine – a mother and grandmother who wants to be around to give her daughter away at her wedding later this year.
- Kerry – a talented artist who has exhibited her work in galleries and film festivals worldwide
- Natalie – who has four loving children and a gorgeous granddaughter
Each woman has set up individual crowdfunding pages. However, they are also keen to try and raise the money collectively as a group. They want to share their story with as many people as possible.
To donate, no matter how small, visit: 6 in a million – Help us fund our cancer treatment