The mother of Bradley Lowery says she is “overjoyed” that a drug used to treat the six-year-old football mascot, who died last year, will be made available on the NHS.
Gemma Lowery, who has been campaigning for the treatment to become more widely available after losing her son to neuroblastoma – a rare and aggressive form of cancer that mainly affects children and young people – said the news would give other families hope.
The drug, which could potentially extend lives, will be offered to seriously ill children battling the same cancer, following a recommendation from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Trials have estimated the survival gain of the drug is three to five years when compared to the current treatment option of isotretinoin.
It works by boosting the immune system and helps target the body’s natural defences at tumour sites.
Bradley was given the treatment during clinical trials, which helped clear his cancer at the end of 2014.
Although the disease returned and he died in July 2017, his mother credits the drug for giving her “18 very happy months” with her son, that she says she wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Bradley was a huge football fan and supported Sunderland and England. He won the hearts of football players and fans alike and became the England team mascot just four months before he died.
His mother said: “I am overjoyed that NICE and EUSA Pharma have worked together to enable Dinutuximab beta antibody to be given on the NHS. This is a huge step forward in the world of neuroblastoma and takes away so much stress for the families that have their children fighting against it.
“I know first hand how this drug is a huge benefit to children who have Neuroblastoma, Bradley became cancer free after having Dinutuximab Beta as part of his frontline treatment.
“Having this on the NHS for all children is a huge relief for parents and gives them hope.”
Neuroblastoma is most common in youngsters under the age of five, and is estimated to affect around 100 children a year.
About 60% of these patients will have access to the treatment as long as they meet a number of criteria, according to NICE.
Meindert Boysen, director for the NICE Centre for Health Technology Evaluation, said: “We are pleased to be able to recommend dinutuximab beta. It is an important treatment option for children and young-people with high-risk neuroblastoma in particular, and has shown the potential to increase their survival.
“We are grateful to the company for responding to our evaluation by setting a price which is cost-effective to the NHS.
“We welcome this new and effective treatment option.”
Dr Juliet Gray, associate professor in paediatric oncology at the Cancer Immunology Centre, University of Southampton, called the decision a “vital step forward”.
She said: “By harnessing the body’s own immune system, dinutuximab beta has shown it can target and attack this cancer very effectively in some patients.
“For some children this could mean extra weeks or months with their families, for others it may even lead to them becoming cancer-free for a long period of time.”