After a series of devastating setbacks, including cancelled operations and then delays caused by Covid that left her feeling “failed”, her attempt to get NHS funding for another treatment has been rejected. While Pembrolizumab, which strengthens a patient’s immune system so it can fight cancer cells, is helping people with other varieties of cancer, it does not have UK clearance for cervical tumours and remains at the consultation stage.
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“The lag is woeful. In the US it has been used for three years so there is concrete evidence it works,” says Claire, from the West Midlands, whose cancer returned after bouts of chemotherapy and a hysterectomy, that she was recommended more than once to have, did not happen.
She told Crusader: “Last month I was told the tumour had grown so much it is inoperable and I have six months at most to live. That was the hardest moment when I thought how different things might have been had the surgery gone ahead.
“I rejected an alternative offer of chemotherapy as it didn’t work before and made me dreadfully ill.
“Getting Pembrolizumab is my last hope. But I was rejected by NHS England for individual funding because I was not deemed clinically “exceptional”. I would argue I am because if I had had the surgery I might not be in this position.”
Her lawyer Mary Smith from Novum Law is challenging the rejection.
Claire’s medical team at The Royal Marsden hospital in London is also asking the drug’s developer MSD UK, part of giant healthcare group Merck, to provide this drug on compassionate grounds.
Meanwhile friends of Claire, a devoted Wolverhampton Wanderers FC supporter, have rallied round raffling Wolves’ memorabilia and raising funds so Claire can be treated with Pembrolizumab privately.
In the UK that would cost £8,000 for a dose compared to £3,200 at a clinic in Cyprus. The GoFundMe campaign for Claire has so far smashed the £20,000 mark with one anonymous contributor donating £3,000.
However, with the changing travel restrictions going to and from Cyprus for 15 weeks for the first treatment cycle, even with husband Greg supporting her, will be tough going for Claire.
“But if I cannot get help here, this is it. I thank everyone who is making it possible, the generosity has been overwhelming,” she says.
“The first treatments will show whether or not they work so at least I’ll know.
“I hope my fight to end delays will help other UK women whose lives Pembrolizumab might save.”
To find out more about helping Claire, click here.