At a recent meeting of Cancer52 – a coalition of patient advocacy organisations representing rarer cancers – held at the House of Lords, attendees heard updates on the UK’s Cancer Drug Fund (CDF) and discussed the challenges in research, access to treatment and the move towards ‘stratified’ medicine.
Following initial hiccups in uptake of the CDF due to understanding and navigation of the application system, Professor Mike Richards – the UK’s Cancer Tzar – reported that over 90% of applications to date had been approved, many related directly to the management and treatment of rarer cancers (this being those outside of the top 4: breast, lung, colon and prostate).
Cancer52 welcomed this news but did caution that there were still some areas in the UK where clinicians still seemed unaware or unsure of how to access the CDF.
One of the greatest challenges facing those with less common cancers is awareness,early diagnosis and prompt access to effective management. Professor Richards felt that the Awareness and Early Diagnosis Initiative set up following the Government’s health policy agenda would identify ways to improve this through the identification and sharing of good practice across the UK.
A number of attendees called on the need for further research into genetic markers, similar to those already being used in the NHS that would help to ensure that treatments are given to those that will see greatest benefit, eg use of K-RAS testing.
This approach will allow stratified medicine to become a reality and outcomes to be significantly improved AND make better use of NHS resources. Testing such as this is a priority for the NHS.
Professor Richards stated that the greater sharing of information across specialists treating patients with different cancers would increase local knowledge and improve management and he called for increased creation and usage of MDTs (multi-disciplinary teams) across the NHS.
Cancer52 represents rarer and less common cancers that account for over 52% of all cancer deaths.