Gift of time for cancer sufferer Nick

Wollongong cancer sufferer Nick Collings. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Wollongong cancer sufferer Nick Collings. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Renal cancer sufferer Nick Collings has received a $24,000 Christmas gift that hopefully will improve his quality of life and help him live longer.

After a Mercury report earlier this month, Hospital Hill Pharmacy generously donated two months' supply of the chemotherapy drug Axitinib (Inlyta), Pfizer Australia gave another month's worth, and a fund-raising campaign raised $3200 - almost half the cost of the drug for a fourth month.

Axitinib, an advanced renal cell cancer treatment, costs $7000 for a one-month course.

"What's positive is that the consumers banded together in this and were heard by the committee."

Mr Collings' partner Ann Goldsmith had lobbied the federal government to have the drug approved on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme after it was rejected for the first time last year, despite it being subsidised overseas.

The pair received good news just before Christmas that the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) had now approved Axitinib as a second-line treatment for renal cancer sufferers.

Mr Collings will have to wait until about April for the Department of Health to give Axitinib the final stamp of approval.

Nick Collings (centre) celebrated a special family Christmas. He is pictured with his brothers, from left, John who flew in from Western Australia, Michael who flew back from Dublin, Ireland and Shaun who lives in the Illawarra.

Nick Collings (centre) celebrated a special family Christmas. He is pictured with his brothers, from left, John who flew in from Western Australia, Michael who flew back from Dublin, Ireland and Shaun who lives in the Illawarra.

"It's exciting, but there is one more step before it's given the all clear," said Ms Goldsmith.

"So we're all just keeping our fingers crossed that it gets that final pass."

Mr Collings, who is in Port Kembla Hospital's palliative care unit recovering from pneumonia, was released on gate leave over the Christmas break.

His brothers flew in from Ireland and Western Australia for a special family gathering.

Mr Collings thanked everyone who had helped him either through donations or by sending their well-wishes.

"It's been great, fantastic really," Mr Collings said.

"I just want to personally thank everyone who has helped me. Hospital Hill Pharmacy, Pfizer and all the people who have donated or left positive comments for us. They are all amazing, beautiful people."

Mr Collings was a bit reluctant to get excited about the drug being placed on the PBS.

"When I go to the chemist and I can buy it then I'll be happy," he said.

"But it has been a fantastic achievement for Ann, who has worked so hard for this. It's been a big effort."

In handing down its findings, the PBAC acknowledged the clinical need for having an alternative option for second-line therapy as recommended by the European Society for Medical Oncology clinical practice guidelines.

It also took into consideration the sentiments expressed in the consumer comments it had received online.

However it was concerned some consumers believed the drug could cure renal cancer, which it said was an "unrealistic expectation".

Axitinib has been shown to be successful in delaying the progression of cancer in some patients.

"It is not a curative treatment," explained Ms Goldsmith. "It gives longevity. It gives people time to wait for a cure.

"But what's positive is that the consumers banded together in this and were heard by the committee."

She added that Axitinib did not cost any more or less than other chemotherapy drugs.

Mr Collings, who was diagnosed 18 months ago, said his struggle with the rare cancer had been a devastating way to live life.

"It's horrible to go through. It's not my time that's for sure. I really hope the drug gets through," he said.

"I believe it will make life a lot easier for everyone else who gets this cancer in the future. I hope it goes smoothly for them."

A scan in November showed that after 21 days on the drug the four tumours in Mr Collings' brain and most of the 100 tumours on his lungs had disappeared.

Instead of dying within weeks, Mr Collings has been kept alive with Axitinib.

He is due for a further CT scan in 10 days.

"That will be a big day for me. I'll get a lot more information from that as to how the drug is working."

Sign Ann's petition here.

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