A New Zealand asbestos cancer victim whose family claims was near death has seemingly been saved by an ultra-expensive skin cancer drug that has provided a near miraculous improvement in symptoms of the disease.
A recent article in the New Zealand Herald cites the case of Leonard Pene, a meso victim who decided to take a chance on the drug, an Anti-PD-L1 immunotherapy drug that is most often used to treat advanced melanoma but is sometimes used to treat certain types of non-small cell lung cancer and some head and neck cancers as well.
Manufactured by the oncology division of Merck & Co, Inc., Keytruda helps the patient’s own immune system to locate and fight cancer cells. It is generally given to those who’ve already tried treatment with a platinum-based chemotherapy drug and is given intravenously every three weeks.
In the case of Mr. Pene, his oncologist told him the Keytruda may be too little, too late for the 68-year-old. But Pene’s family reported that within just 3 days of his first infusion, the once-active grandfather began to feel much improved. He was roused from his near-unconscious state and was hungry for the first time in weeks. Just the day before, notes the article, the family was planning his funeral. Doctors had given him just days to live.
Even his oncologist, Dr. Richard Sullivan, was stunned by the result of the use of Keytruda. “His personal story is truly remarkable,” he told the newspaper.
Now, four months after that first infusion, Pene is considering returning to work on a part-time basis at the pest control company where he was supervisor for years. It’ll help him pay for the drug, which is not covered by the national healthcare system in New Zealand.
Thus far, Pene has had seven infusions and a scan after the third showed that his tumors – located in the peritoneum – had already shrunk by some 61 percent. “I’ve got no pain. I take no pills,” the New Zealander added, noting that his biggest concern now is how to pay for the drug, which has already cost him $34,000. Currently, New Zealand’s system will cover the cost of Keytruda (and the similar drug, Opdivo) for melanoma patients but not for those with other cancers.
Mr. Pene was exposed to asbestos more than 50 years ago as a 15-year-old enjoying summer employment at a factory where his father was employed. Pene notes that his father died of asbestos cancer in his 60s, and he believed his was doomed to the same fate. But now, he has hope.
Americans with mesothelioma run into similar issues with expensive chemotherapy or immunotherapy drugs. While some enjoy full coverage of their mesothelioma treatment, others are not so fortunate. That’s why many turn to litigation.
Bringing suit against a company or corporation responsible for one’s disease can assist in gaining funds to pay for expensive treatments. For many, it’s the only way to make ends meet when faced with such a devastating illness.