Eye cancer patient says life-saving treatment she needs isn’t on NHS: ‘I am devastated’
A woman with a rare form of cancer has shared her fears that she has a lower chance of survival because she can’t afford treatment that isn’t funded by the NHS.
Megan McClay, 29, was diagnosed with ocular melanoma, also known as uveal melanoma, in 2020. It is a type of cancer that begins in the cells of the uvea or uveal tract of the eye.
According to national charity OcuMel UK, she was informed that some tumours had spread to her liver and requires a treatment called chemosaturation therapy, or percutaneous hepatic perfusion (PHP).
The charity, which supports uveal cancer patients, said PHP is effective in nearly 90 per cent of patients – but that despite the success, the NHS does not fund the treatment.
McClay, from Wymondham, Norfolk, is therefore unable to get the treatment from the NHS, which has left her “devastated”.
She said that her treatment options are “limited” as she “simply cannot afford chemosaturation”.
“This is deeply troubling for myself, my family and for the many others in a similar situation,” she said. “I am devastated that I will not be able to experience the hope that this treatment brings.
“The confidence and assurance of having access to treatment options is fundamental for prolonging life and maintaining quality of life.”
McClay added that she has a “strong desire to survive for as long as possible” but fears that her financial limitations may “prevent this from happening”.
In 2021, PHP was highlighted as a treatment option by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). However, the guidance recommends that, for patients with metastases in the liver from ocular melanoma, the treatment “should only be used with special arrangements for clinical governance, consent, and audit or research”.
Megan was diagnosed with uveal melanoma in 2020 at just 26 . “Upon learning that the cancer had spread to my liver, one of my biggest concerns was the availability of treatment options". 💙https://t.co/0PhakkSMca pic.twitter.com/eehym48ZCV
— OcuMelUK (@OcuMelUK) February 20, 2023
According to OcuMel UK, the procedure “isolates” the liver from the rest of the body and “bathes” it in chemotherapy by using two small balloons to divert blood past the liver for an hour while “delivering drugs directly into the organ”.
This allows doctors to administer larger doses of the drug than standard chemotherapy would deliver. The charity added it “does not enter the bloodstream and cause unnecessary damage to healthy parts of the body”.
Neil Pearce, chairman of OcuMel UK, said: “It really is devastating that patients with ocular melanoma that has spread to the liver are being denied access to a treatment proven to boost survival, with no NHS commissioned service and every individual funding request put to NHS England denied.”
He added that some patients are fundraising for themselves and paying to have the treatment in a private healthcare setting, but “most simply cannot afford to do so”.
The charity is calling on “decision makers to address these issues as a matter of priority to save lives”.
A spokesperson for NHS England said: “While Nice incorporated chemosaturation therapy into the available treatment options, it specifically advised using it with caution.
“NHS England also identified there was insufficient evidence to make it routinely available and will look to review the evidence again later this year.”