Father with 10 brain tumours refused cancer drug has $52,000 treatment paid for by total stranger
March 23, 2012
The family of a man with 10 brain tumours say their prayers have been answered after a generous stranger agreed to pay for a life-prolonging drug denied to him by the NHS.
Father-of-two Glen Cunningham, 29, who suffers from a rare form of cancer called gliosarcoma, had been planning a fundraising mission after he was refused Avastin, a ‘wonder-drug’ which costs £33,500 per year.
But he now hopes to spend more time with his partner and young children after a property developer decided to donate the entire sum himself.
Kenny Vickers, 34, and wife Melody, 33, whose youngest son is fighting for life after being born prematurely, were touched by a report of Mr Cunningham's plight in a local newspaper.
Mr Cunningham's mother Patricia, 64, from South Shields, Tyne and Wear, said: 'I misheard the amount, I thought it was £3,500, which in itself is fantastic, but £33,500? I am going to cry.
'What can we say except our prayers have been answered.'
Speaking after Mr Cunningham and his family travelled to Sheffield for more treatment, his partner Yasmin Malik, 26, said: 'I am honestly stunned.
'I don’t quite know what to say. I never thought for one minute there would be people in the world as generous as this, it’s not sinking in.
'Glen is still half asleep from yesterday, I don’t think he can believe it, we can’t thank this man enough for what he has done.'
Mr Cunningham, a plasterer from South Shields, Tyne and Wear, hopes the drug will shrink his tumours, two of which are inoperable, and extend his life, giving him more time to spend with daughter Lauren, seven, and a 10-month-old son, also named Glen.
South Tyneside Primary Care Trust (PCT) had said there wasn’t enough evidence the injections, which are licensed by the Government, would help him.
Mr Vickers, of the Isle of Skye, also has a home in South Shields and read of Mr Cunningham's predicament in their local newspaper, the Shields Gazette.
He said he and his wife were in 'floods of tears' at Mr Cunningham's circumstances.
'We are lucky enough to be quite comfortable financially and so we would like to give Glen the chance to see his children grow up and spend more time with them,' he added.
'To me life is everything and very precious, and I want to give Glen the quality time he deserves with his family.'
But Mr Vickers, a father of seven, is also facing a troubled time in his own family.
His youngest child, 10-week-old Preston, is fighting for life after being born 14 weeks prematurely, weighing just 1lbs 11.5 ozs and is in South Tyneside District Hospital’s Special Care Baby Unit.
Preston has suffered from two holes in his bowel, plus a double hernia and needs further surgery at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary on Thursday.
Mr Vickers said: 'We have children and we know how difficult it can be, especially at the moment, so we know what it’s like to be going through hard times.
'We wish Glen and his family the best of luck and we just hope our gift will help.
'If he needs anything else, all he has to do is ask.'
Doting father: Mr Cunningham hopes the injections will enable him to spend more time with his son, Glen, and daughter, Lauren
South Tyneside PCT told Mr Cunningham last week that it was not prepared to pay the £33,600 a year it would cost for him to receive a course of twice-monthly injections.
He then began planning a fundraising campaign, claiming it was his 'last chance', but Mr Vickers's intervention means he can be treated even sooner.
Mr Cunningham was diagnosed with cancer in December 2006 after he suffered a seizure.
During 2007 he endured chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, and was delighted when he went into remission.
Three years later, in September 2010, doctors discovered the tumour had returned and Glen found himself facing further surgery.
When the cancer came back yet again at the start of 2011, Mr Cunningham went through gamma knife - a special type of brain radiation treatment.
The difficulties surrounding the drug Avastin relate in part to the fact that, while it can be legally prescribed in the UK,
it has not been approved for use by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) - which gives advice on which drugs should be made available to the NHS.
NICE, which weighs up the relative costs and benefits of drugs, believes Avastin is too expensive based on the benefits it provides.
From 2014, the Department of Health plan to bring in a new system called 'value-based pricing.'
Under the plans, groups of GPs will decided whether a drug should be funded or not rather than the medicines watchdog NICE.
Ministers hope this will help to make new drugs affordable through direct price negotiations with pharmaceutical companies.
NICE will continue to give advice on which drugs are effective.
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