Terminal cancer therapy with life-prolonging drugs: “I would hardly call this type of treatment futile.”
Campaigners disagreed with the report concerning terminal cancer patient treatment strategy, especially the exclusion of the drugs that were expected to prolong life for terminal cancer patient.
A report on managing cancer costs, made by 37 cancer experts from developed countries, was published in the Lancet Oncology on September 26 . The study highlights the need of a judicious medication for terminal cancer patient. Professor Richard Sullivan has presented the study at the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress in Stockholm. Terminal cancer therapy is “futile and potentially inconsistent with patients’ wishes’“, according to the study.
“I would hardly call this type of treatment futile. We have kidney cancer patients on a life-prolonging drug called Sutent who have been told they have only two to three weeks to live but who go on to live for a further five years,” said Rose Woodward, of the James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer.
“Describing all treatments near the end of life as futile is tantamount to writing patients off. Just because they cannot be “cured” does not mean that we cannot give them valuable treatment, care and support,” said a spokesman for the Rarer Cancers Foundation.
“While cancer care can be expensive, it is unjust to put a cost on the lives of patients, especially when modern treatments can often give them precious time with their loved ones and increase their length and quality of life,” said Ian Beaumont of Bowel Cancer UK.
Some life-extending drugs has shown increased positive results for certain terminal cancer patients.
Abiraterone, for prostate cancer, was approved in the UK at a cost of £35,000 a patient last week. On average it only extends lives by a few weeks, but some patients survive for five years.
Avastin, for advanced bowel cancer, was initially thought to extend survival by an average of only six weeks. Some patients are still alive five years later and with no tumors relapse.
Daily Mail presented the case of Barbara Moss who was given several months to live when she was diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer that had metastasized to her liver in November 2006. She paid for Avastin privately and the drug shrank the tumors and they were small enough to be removed by surgery and she has lived an extra five years.
Zelboraf, a targeted medicine for inoperable or metastatic melanoma BRAF V600E mutation-positive, has shown it increased survival rate of the patients and was approved by FDA last month.
Adcetris, the first drug approved by the FDA for Hodgkin lymphoma in more than 30 years, an antibody-drug conjugate (ADC) directed to CD30, has demonstrated a high durable complete remission rate in CD30-positive malignancies.
Other medicines are still in a trial stage, but some of them are very promising even for terminal cancer.
Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania have genetically engineered patients’ T cells to attack cancer cells in advanced cases of a common type of leukemia. Two of three patients studied have been cancer-free for more than one year. In the third case over 70% of cancer cells were removed.
Researchers from Lund University have identified a method that may attack and destroy prostate cancer stem cells and might lead to a complete cure.
Autumn crocus extract drug could wipe out cancer in a single treatment with minimal side effects, according to University of Bradford researchers in UK. The new drug is able to kill off more than one type of the disease, including breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung and bowel cancer.
Recently presented data have shown Zybrestat, a pro-drug vascular disrupting agent, helped improve the one-year survival rate of patients with larger anaplastic thyroid cancer tumors.
Specialists at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital have tested radium-223 chloride (a powerful alpha radiation drug for prostate cancer) on 461 patients while another group of the same number was being treated with placebo. The group taking the new drug experienced less pain, side effects and lived longer, and the doctors decided to stop the trial and started treating all 922 patients taking part in the study because they said it would be unethical not to.
Giving a terminal cancer patient false hope is unethically, but in the same time to refuse a potentially helpful treatment to a terminal cancer patient is unethically too. This is not a recent debate, unfortunately health services and terminal cancer still need adjustments, but these can be done by trying and studying.