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Innovations in Oncology 2020

From cancer patient to marathon hero: how the Innovative Cancer Care Fund could save lives

iStock / Getty Images Plus / Paul Bradbury

Vanessa Hebditch

Director of Communications & Policy, British Liver Trust

The British Liver Trust is joining forces with other health charities to call for improved access to innovative cancer therapies for patients.


Every day in the UK, 990 people are diagnosed with cancer, while death rates from liver cancer have soared by around 50% in the last decade.

Unfortunately, liver cancer is extremely difficult to treat as patients often have underlying liver disease that must be treated alongside the cancer. There are very few treatment options and only 12% of patients survive for five years.

Patients in the UK are missing out

Innovative new cancer drugs are made available to patients through the Cancer Drugs Fund. However, other emerging ground-breaking cancer treatments such as ablation or embolisation ‘technologies’ are not included. 

Many of these treatments are currently available across Europe, the USA and Canada. However, patients in the UK are missing out.

SIRT has undoubtedly extended my life. I have had precious time with my wife and children – what price do you put on that?

Mark Thornberry, aged 59

Health charities, oncologists and other clinicians are calling for access to these types of treatment to be made available through a new ‘Innovative Cancer Care Fund’.

Professor Abid Suddle, a consultant from Kings College Hospital NHS Trust, said, “For some patients, these types of interventional oncology treatments are the most clinically appropriate option and they need to be a key part of the Government’s Cancer Strategy. It is much more difficult to get these treatments through traditional commissioning mechanisms as randomised control trials are problematic due to the small number of patients who will benefit and the fact that you cannot offer a ‘placebo pill.’”

Mark’s story

Mark Thornberry, aged 59, is one patient who has benefitted from these treatments. Diagnosed with liver cancer in April 2017, he was advised that he only had six to nine months to live after his cancer spread following an initial conventional treatment.

At the time, his hospital was participating in a clinical trial for Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT). This is a type of internal radiotherapy. Radioactive beads are placed into a blood vessel and carried directly to the tumour site in the liver where the radiation destroys the cancer cells.  

For Mark, SIRT proved to be a game changer. The non-invasive nature of the treatment and limited side effects meant he was able to run an ultra-marathon only six weeks after the treatment and his life expectancy has gone up significantly. 

Mark said, “SIRT has undoubtedly extended my life. I have had precious time with my wife and children – what price do you put on that? These treatment options should be made available for any patients who might benefit.”

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