New drug offers hope for cancer patients
A new drug to help prolong the life of patients with ovarian cancer is being offered at NNUH.
The news comes as we mark Ovarian Cancer Awareness month here at the hospital.
Since January 2020 drugs in tablet form called PARPS inhibitors have been given to eligible patients who have undergone surgery and chemotherapy treatment for ovarian cancer. It will be at least another year before there is robust in-house data on the drug’s performance on patients here in Norfolk, but elsewhere results from clinical trials and use of the drug have been encouraging, showing, in some cases, prolonging life by two years.
NNUH lead oncologist Daniel Epurescu explained that this drug is a maintenance drug, not a cure. He said: “This is a new treatment for the hospital and it is only suitable for certain patients whom we test beforehand. We now have patients who have been taking this drug for about a year. The principle of oncology is to add more treatment to keep the cancer at bay, so we can see better survival outcomes for our patients.
“It is very good news that we are able to offer this drug at NNUH because it is taken orally, so it can be taken at home. Our Oncology team will help identify who is eligible and prescribe the drug after a full face to face consultation. They are monitored regularly through virtual consultations so they do not have to come to the hospital as often. The drug is delivered to their home by our Pharmacy team, which is good for their wellbeing and quality of life. Also there is not as much fatigue or other significant side-effects experienced with this drug as would normally be the case for patients who are having other treatments.”
He added: “We do have to look carefully at our cohort of patients as those who have been involved in clinical trials which licenced the use of PARP inhibitors, were specially chosen and are unlikely to have as many co-morbidities, or a range of underlying heath conditions, or be on a variety of different medications. We will take all that and any side effects into consideration before we recommend such effective treatment for our patients.”
Yvette Cutting, has been taking the inhibitors for 10 months, having been found eligible for this treatment last May.
Yvette said: “I did have chemotherapy to start with, but this is better because you don’t have any injections. I’m fine with a needle but I know some people don’t like them. You do get a couple of groggy days with the chemotherapy, but with these tablets I haven’t had any side effects.”
Yvette added: “This is the best of both worlds because you have all the security of knowing you are being monitored regularly, but not having to travel to the hospital. However lovely they are at the hospital – and they are. I have had great care there – it’s better not having to go there as often.
“I would encourage anyone to have this if they can.”
And in Ovarian Cancer Awareness month, Yvette encouraged everyone to be aware of the symptoms of ovarian cancer.
She said: “People don’t realise, this can really creep up on you. “
Symptoms of ovarian cancer
- feeling bloated (having a swollen tummy)
- feeling full quickly and/or loss of appetite.
- pain or discomfort in the lower tummy area and/or back.
- needing to pass urine more often or more urgently (feeling like you can’t hold on)
- changes in bowel habits (diarrhoea or constipation)
- pain during sex.