The mother of Bradley Lowery has welcomed news that a drug used to treat the young football mascot will be made available on the NHS.
Gemma Lowery said she was “overjoyed” dinutuximab beta has been recommended for use by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) under final draft guidance published on Thursday 12th July.
The treatment for patients with high-risk neuroblastoma, a rare type of cancer that mainly affects children and young people, could increase survival, evidence suggests.
While there is ‘uncertainty around the long-term clinical benefit’ of the drug, Nice said the ‘potential survival gain’ offered by its use was ‘substantial’.
The news comes only months after Professor Ray Donnelly, president of the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation and founder of Pause for Hope – special services for those affected by cancer, told The Universe that parents should never have to worry about funding their child’s cancer treatment.
As previously reported in The Universe, Bradley died last July at the age of six, after first being diagnosed with neuroblastoma when he was 18 months old.
The Sunderland fan, whose funeral was held at St Joseph’s Catholic Church in his home village of Blackhall, County Durham, received dinutuximab beta during clinical trials, which his mother said helped to temporarily clear the cancer.
Mrs Lowery said: “This is a huge step forward in the world of neuroblastoma and takes away so much stress for the families whose children are fighting against it.
“I know first-hand how this drug is a huge benefit to children who have neuroblastoma.
“Bradley became cancer-free after having dinutuximab beta as part of his frontline treatment.
“Making it available on the NHS for children with high-risk neuroblastoma will be a huge relief for parents and will give them hope.”
Neuroblastoma develops from specialised nerve cells left behind from a baby’s development in the womb.
It affects around 100 children each year in the UK, most commonly under the age of five.
Nice previously said dinutuximab beta would be too expensive to recommend for use, with a course of treatment for a three year old costing on average £152,200.
However the body said an agreement had been reached with EUSA Pharma to allow the drug to be made available on the NHS at a confidential discounted price.
It will be given to patients aged 12 months and over, whose disease has at least partially responded to first stage chemotherapy, followed by myeloablative therapy and stem cell transplant.
They will only be eligible if they have not already received anti-GD2 immunotherapy.
Meindert Boysen, director of the Nice centre for health technology evaluation, said the drug “is an important treatment option for children and young people with high-risk neuroblastoma”.
“We are grateful to the company for responding to our evaluation by setting a price which is cost-effective to the NHS,” he said.
“We welcome this new and effective treatment option.”
Prof. Donnelly previously told The Universe that economics should never come into the question when it comes to treating children with cancer.
“Parents should never have to raise significant sums of money to get treatment for their child who has cancer,” he told The Universe in February.
“In any case most parents cannot even begin to do this. Economics should never determine whether a child should be treated for cancer.”
He insisted that such treatment should always be made available.
“If effective therapies are available they should be offered, even if considered only palliative, as more effective cancer treatments are coming on stream all the time.”
To see more about the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation see: www.roycastle.org
To see more about Pause for Hope see: www.pauseforhope.org.uk
Picture: File photo dated 19/5/2017 of Bradley Lowery with his mother Gemma who welcomed news that a drug used to treat the young football mascot will be made available on the NHS. (Owen Humphreys/PA Wire).