Ribociclib (Kisqali) is already used to treat advanced hormone receptor-positive (HR-positive) breast cancer. Now new research has shown it can also reduce the risk of recurrence when used in early breast cancer.
Ribociclib is known to improve survival when given to people with advanced HR-positive breast cancer. It belongs to a group of medicines called CDK 4/6 inhibitors; palbociclib (Ibrance, which is funded in New Zealand) and abemaciclib (Verzenio) are others in this group.
BCAC is confident that Pharmac’s switch of breast cancer drug Herceptin (trastuzumab) to Herzuma, a biosimilar version, will be safe and effective, but we wonder why it took so long to fund this cheaper alternative. BCAC is also disappointed that access has not been extended to those who need retreatment in advanced breast cancer.
Jess Coate (Ngapuhi), fitness instructor and bodybuilding pro, organised a hugely successful fun fitness and learning event for BCAC, attended by 80 women in Kirikiriroa Hamilton recently. Jess teamed up with BCAC to raise awareness of the danger breast cancer poses to young women. Watch this awesome video of the event with some vital messages!
Jess’ best friend, BCAC’s Deputy Chair Emma Crowley, was diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer at 24. Jess’ cousin was diagnosed at 35 and her grandma at 82, so she’s well aware that breast cancer can affect you at any age.
While drugs given during chemotherapy can help to combat nausea, more than half of patients also suffer from delayed nausea and vomiting. This kicks in after chemo has finished and can last for days. Some oncologists had reported that pantoprazole, a proton pump inhibitor which reduces stomach acid, was helpful for these patients. However, others were not convinced.
A recently completed New Zealand-based clinical trial (called PantoCIN) has provided proof that this treatment has benefits.
BCAC is alarmed by Pharmac’s proposal to review a rule that currently allows children with cancer to have free access to unfunded medicines. Read BCAC’s submission here. Pharmac’s reasoning is that by restricting this access, it would bring treatments for child cancers into line with those for other children’s diseases, where medicines access is limited. The current funding model for paediatric cancer medicines has seen 5-year survival rates improve from 28% in 1961-1970 to 86% in 2010 to 2019, matching rates in similar countries.
BCAC has grave concerns about the potential impacts of the Therapeutic Products Bill as currently drafted and has written a submission to the Health Select Committee on this. Enactment of the Bill could result in adverse consequences for all diagnosed with breast cancer in Aotearoa, as well as many other New Zealanders with various health conditions.
BCAC identified three major concerns:
BCAC is aware that the breast cancer experience presents some unique challenges for LGBTQI+ people. We were pleased to see that the Cancer Council of New South Wales has produced a new online resource to help. It provides useful information on coping with cancer, dealing with discrimination, effects on body image, sexual intimacy and fertility, issues for trans and/or gender-diverse people and intersex people, advanced cancer, life after treatment, and issues for LGBTQI+ carers.
BCAC has responded to a call from Te Manatū Hauora (Ministry of Health) for input on the topic of Precision Health, which is being considered for inclusion in the next Long-term Insights Briefing to Government. BCAC’s Fay Sowerby has written a comprehensive submission, in which she describes how both precision health and precision medicine present huge opportunities for improvements in breast cancer care.
BCAC welcomes the Breast Cancer Foundation’s new survey to learn more about the long-term side effects of treatments for early breast cancer. ‘It’s good to see more research on the experiences of NZ women with breast cancer’ says BCAC Chair Libby Burgess. ‘We encourage you to participate in this research if you can.’ Update 1 May 2023: the survey has now closed. You can learn more about the results by contacting the Breast Cancer Foundation at email@example.com Read more about the survey and the Foundation’s research here and below.