Background: Majority of the solid cancer patients seen in our Centers come with advanced diseases. Some of the cancers are locally advanced, while others are metastatic. Most of these patients who present late belong to the poverty-stricken group in our community. Only few of them can afford costly drugs for their treatment. The government Health Insurance Scheme does not cover cancer patients in Nigeria.
Aim: To highlight the importance of immunotherapy in the management of metastatic cancers.
Objective: We wish to share our experience in the use of immunotherapy (Bevacizumab) for metastatic cancers in the few patients who could afford the drug, and to highlight the need for reduction of the prices of immunotherapeutic drugs, or for government to subsidize the costs.
Methods: From the 1,135 solid cancer patients treated in our two Centers in three years (February 2017 to January 2020), those who presented with metastasis were slated for immunotherapy after we had obtained their immunohistochemistry results.
Results: Six hundred and one (601) patients (53.0%) presented late. Three hundred and five (305) of these late presenters (50.7%) came with metastasis. Only 67 (22.0%) out of the 305 metastatic patients could afford immunotherapy, because of high cost. With the exception of one female patient, each of the remaining 66 patients was able to afford only one single dose of Bevacizumab (Avastin)R. Of these patients, one died of Tumor Lysis Syndrome following one single dose of 600 mg of Bevacizumab. There were measurable shrinkages of the tumor burdens, as well as improvement in the quality of life of the remaining 66 patients.
Conclusion: Following these encouraging results, immunotherapy for metastatic carcinomas is to be encouraged for wider use, even in resource-deprived economies. Repeated doses will offer the patient greater benefits. Government should subsidize the cost of immunotherapeutic drugs so that they would become affordable by majority of those who need them.
Published on: Oct 27, 2020 Pages: 25-27
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