New Developments in Cancer Treatments
Are We One Step Closer to a Cure?
We all dread the ‘c’ word, and hearing the statistics explains why. According to Macmillan, an estimated 2.5 million people in the UK had cancer in 2015. That is an increase by approximately 400,000 since 2010. It’s predicted that by 2030, 4 million people in the UK will have cancer.
It does not matter how often we hear the word ‘cancer’, these numbers are alarming. However, we are fighting back and now more than ever, more people are surviving for longer. This is down to better screening, earlier diagnoses and advancements in treatment.
We look at some of the recent progress made with treatment and how this can affect your medical negligence claim.
One year old Layla Richards made headlines in November 2015, when it was reported that she had beaten leukaemia with a revolutionary genetic treatment. Right before her first birthday, doctors advised Layla’s parents that all other treatments had failed and that she would not survive. As a last ditch effort, doctors suggested that she undergo experimental treatment, which had only previously been performed on mice. This involved obtaining immune cells from a donor and engineering them to find and kill cancerous cells. Unlike chemotherapy, this would leave Layla’s healthy cells alone.
Layla was given the treatment and it seems to have worked. Her cancer is in remission and she is now at home recovering.
As this is all still relatively new, doctors are being prudent and want to wait a few more years before declaring that Layla is ‘cured’. However at this stage, gene editing has been hailed as a miracle treatment which could help many more patients who may have thought they had no other options left.
Immunotherapy works with your body to combat one of the most common problems of treating cancer – when cancerous cells are hidden amongst healthy cells. This can either cause the cancer to grow undetected or result in healthy cells being killed alongside cancerous ones.
Immunotherapy finds the hidden cancerous cells and exposes them to your immune system. The immune system is then left to fight the cancer naturally. This leaves the patient with few or no side effects. Immunotherapy can also ‘train’ your immune system to recognise cancer, to ensure that any future cancerous cells are detected instantly.
Whilst genetic editing is relatively new and results are still unpredictable, immunotherapy is one of the most exciting and remarkable advances made in cancer treatment in the last few years. Many patients have seen their cancerous tumours shrink whilst there have been many reported cases of patients who were completely cured of terminal cancer.
This form of treatment deals with starving damaged DNA cells to kill cancer.
PARP inhibitors are a group of drugs designed to treat patients who have cancer with specific genetic faults, such as the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. PARP (poly ADP-ribose polymerase) are enzymes which repair damaged DNA in cells. According to Cancer Research UK Cancer “[Cancer] cells have damaged DNA and rely on PARP to repair it. So when [PARP inhibitors] stop PARP from repairing the damage, the cancer cells die. The cancer stops growing or shrinks”.
PARP inhibitors have been widely used to treat ovarian, breast and prostate cancers, and are currently being tested in other types of cancer.
How Medical Advances Can Affect Your Legal Claim
Medical advances can have a huge affect on your medical negligence claim. They can mean that you have access to innovative treatments, without needing to pay for them.
The purpose of a medical negligence claim is to obtain financial compensation which is designed to put you back in the position you would have been in had your treatment been appropriate. However we will also fight to obtain an explanation and apology from the Defendant and alternative therapies which may help your recovery. We will work closely with a team of independent medical experts and a barrister to ensure that we can get the best possible outcome for you to get your life back, as best as you can.
As part of your claim, an independent medical expert who specialises in your specific type of cancer will consider the impact of the negligence on your condition. They will assess your current condition and likely future prognosis. If they consider whether there are any treatments that you would benefit from. If the expert recommends a revolutionary treatment, which you would only need because of the negligence, we will request that the Defendant pay for this. This way, you are able to take advantage of breakthrough therapies without having to pay for them out of your pocket. The logic being that you would never have needed this treatment if your care had been appropriate.
Alternatively, if you have spent money on a treatment that you would not have otherwise required, we will seek to recover the money you spent as part of your claim.
As specialist medical negligence solicitors, we understand that dealing with cancer is difficult enough and that your focus should be on your health. If you have suffered negligent treatment, we will be there every step of the way to provide legal advice and access to practical support services to help you cope. If you would like to pursue a claim for compensation for negligence relating to cancer, it’s important to instruct a solicitor who specialises in medical negligence.