‘Mir­a­cle drug’ gives new lease on life

Northern Outlook - - FRONT PAGE - EMMA DANGER­FIELD

It has been la­belled a mir­a­cle drug in terms of cancer treat­ment, and North Can­ter­bury man Jack Davis could be liv­ing proof that Keytruda re­ally does what it says on the tin.

Un­for­tu­nately for many cancer suf­fer­ers in New Zea­land, the news it works is not enough, as the drug is yet to be funded.

Davis wants to use his re­newed en­ergy to share his story, in the hope of per­suad­ing the gov­ern­ment to agree to fund the drug, also known as Pem­brolizumab.

Im May, at the age of 49, Davis was given less than six months to live. His body was rid­dled with cancer — in his bowel, stom­ach wall, lungs, neck and lymph nodes – seven tu­mours in to­tal.

He has Lynch syn­drome, a ge­netic mu­ta­tion which ac­cel­er­ates cancer, iden­ti­fied in 2015 af­ter his fourth cancer di­ag­no­sis in as many years. His old­est daugh­ter has also been di­ag­nosed with Lynch syn­drome, while his three other chil­dren have yet to be tested.

The fam­ily be­gan fundrais­ing in earnest to pay for the drug, need­ing to raise $60,000. Merck Sharp and Dohme, the com­pany which makes the drug, has agreed to put Jack on the pa­tient-funded pro­gramme for two years if he can raise the $60,000.

Fundrais­ing ef­forts, in­clud­ing their Givealit­tle page, have so far raised $49,000, leav­ing $11,000 still to find.

But they are more de­ter­mined than ever to reach their goal fol­low­ing scan re­sults this week show­ing all his tu­mours had halved in size. Af­ter four in­jec­tions, Davis said the re­sults proved be­yond doubt the drug was work­ing for him.

‘‘The one in my bowel, they said it was in­cur­able, the killer. They could only of­fer me pal­lia­tive care.

‘‘Now I feel great, I’ve got so much more en­ergy, a new lease of life.

‘‘I just want other un­healthy peo­ple to be healthy again.’’

Davis said while the drug was funded in most of the US states and else­where in the world, there were not the num­bers in New Zea­land to make the tri­als cost­ef­fi­cient. But he urged peo­ple to take note of his suc­cess and lobby for oth­ers to be able to ac­cess Keytruda.

‘‘It re­ally is a mir­a­cle drug, it’s given me time to spend with my fam­ily. I’m so grate­ful to ev­ery­one who has helped. I don’t think I’d be alive with­out all the sup­port.’’

His next in­jec­tion is sched­uled for next week, and with a scan ev­ery three months it could be that he gets even bet­ter re­sults in time for his 50th in De­cem­ber.

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