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Cancer campaigner fights fresh battle for treatment
A CANCER sufferer who fought a successful campaign for life-extending drugs is facing his third battle for treatment.
If Clive Stone is turned down again, he faces having to pay privately for a procedure which is routinely given to NHS patients elsewhere.
Mr Stone was diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2007.
Since then, the 63-year-old from Eynsham has fought to get access to treatment for himself and other cancer patients.
The father-of-two first took on the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) to get it to approve use by the NHS of life-extending drug Sunitinib, or Sutent, as a first-line treatment for renal cancer.
He then challenged health officials again after learning his cancer had spread to his brain and he needed gamma knife radiosurgery, a procedure not routinely funded by NHS Oxfordshire.
Mr Stone said that as part of the process to decide whether he was an “exceptional case” he had to send a letter to a priorities panel explaining why he should be kept alive.
He was eventually treated but the tumours have since returned and he faces another battle to get treatment after new guidance for NHS commissioning bodies was issued.
It states that gamma knife surgery – or stereotactic radiosurgery – will only be funded for those patients who have not had it before, have no more than three tumours which are no more than 3cm (1.1in) in diameter, and must have “no evidence of active malignant disease elsewhere”.
Previously there were no formal guidelines and cases were considered individually.
Mr Stone said the guidance automatically ruled out most, if not all patients seeking the treatment.
He added: “Patients tend to get tumours in the brain as a result of having cancer elsewhere. It tends to spread to the brain last. We have been condemned to an early and very painful death by this draconian new policy.”
Mr Stone has been told his application for a second round of funding was turned down. He will now have to ask to be treated as an exceptional case again or pay himself.
In the past three years NHS Oxfordshire has received 11 requests for funding for the procedure, of which six were approved.
Mr Stone said the problem of obtaining the treatment on the NHS was not confined to Oxfordshire. In some areas the rules were even more stringent, but in Yorkshire NHS funding is pre-approved for the surgery if there are “appropriate clinical problems”.
In the past year the PCT there has approved all nine funding requests it received.
NHS Oxfordshire said that so-called metastatic spread of cancer to the brain occurred in 20 to 40 per cent of people with disseminated cancer.
A spokesman said: “Stereotactic radiosurgery for cerebral metastases which, under current policy is low priority, has been reviewed by the Milton Keynes, Oxfordshire, Berkshire East, Berkshire West and Buckinghamshire priorities committee.
“The committee’s recommendation for the use of stereotactic radiosurgery for cerebral metastases and the clinical criteria are based on a review of published evidence, current clinical practice and also take into account clinicians’ views.
“Patients who do not meet the criteria for treatment set out in the recommendation and individual requests for funding treatments not normally commissioned will always be considered.”
Mr Stone, who was awarded an MBE for his campaigning, lost his wife Jan to breast cancer last year. She was 61.
Mr Stone said: “This treatment gave me time to care for my wife here at home, thereby saving the NHS bed costs.”
He added: “I will carry on fighting for me and other cancer patients.”