Calls from Portsmouth man for cancer trial drug to be used more widely

Jason Nash, 43, from Southsea, took part in the trial of cancer drug nivolumab
Jason Nash, 43, from Southsea, took part in the trial of cancer drug nivolumab

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CANCER patient Jason Nash is calling for a drug which helped him on his road to recovery to be used more widely.

The 43-year-old took part in the trial for Opdivo, also known as nivolumab, when he had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Having experienced it, it was a marvellous drug for me because it did not have the side affects of standard cancer treatments.

Jason Nash

It helped put him in remission where other treatments had failed, allowing him to have a bone marrow transplant and become cancer-free.

But the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has today announced preliminary guidance saying more evidence is needed before the drug, manufactured by Bristol Myers Squibb, can be recommended for use by the NHS.

Mr Nash, from Southsea, said: ‘Having experienced it, it was a marvellous drug for me because it did not have the side-effects of standard cancer treatments. But I do appreciate it’s a new drug which can affect different people in different ways.’

Mr Nash was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and, despite chemotherapy treatment, relapsed twice. He was offered another drug, but although it helped initially, it did not make him well enough for the bone marrow transplant he needed.

So when he was offered a chance to take part in the nivolumab trial, he agreed.

Mr Nash added: ‘I had nothing to lose at that point.

‘I started the drug in October, 2014 and by March, 2015 I was in remission and had the transplant. Next month is my two-year anniversary for the transplant and my cancer has not returned.

‘I did not have any side-effects like the chemotherapy – it was a revelation. Taking this drug means you can pretty much live an ordinary life.’

But Mr Nash did understand more research is needed on it. He said: ‘I hope that people can still have this as an option for treatment.

‘Hopefully, the more people who use it, then the more information they can get so they can see if it can become a standard treatment.’

Nice’s independent appraisal committee recognised nivolumab is an ‘innovative and promising treatment’, but concluded the evidence presented was highly uncertain due to immature data and did not reflect how the drug would be used in UK clinical practice.

It requested the company provides a revised analysis of the drug’s cost-effectiveness that takes into account the committee’s concerns.

Jonathan Pearce, chief executive of the Lymphoma Association, called the announcement concerning.

‘The news that Nice is minded not to recommend nivolumab, which has shown to be effective in clinical trials, is of concern,’ he said

‘To not make this treatment available on the NHS will mean limiting treatment options for this group of patients, many of whom 
are from a younger population, and whose remaining option may only be palliative care.

‘It is vital that innovative treatments are being developed and made available to lymphoma patients.’