Dad fights for life extending drugs

Mark Bannister has been told he is not eligible for treatment for his brain tumour because of where he lives. Mark is pictured with his wife Karen and children Sophie and Thomas G110909-1a
Mark Bannister has been told he is not eligible for treatment for his brain tumour because of where he lives. Mark is pictured with his wife Karen and children Sophie and Thomas G110909-1a
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A FORMER Whitwell man fears he may only have a year left with his family if he can not get the cancer drugs he needs.

Father of two Mark Bannister now lives in Gainsborough where he has been refused cancer-fighting drug Avastin.

He believes it could slow the growth of his brain tumour. But a postcode ‘lottery’ means he can’t get it on the NHS where he lives.

Mark, 37, grew up at Ratcliffe Grange Farm near Whitwell.

He has battled brain cancer for eight years, undergoing three operations, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

But the latest course of chemo was not successful and doctors have told him without further treatment he may only have 12 months to live.

“My oncologist recommended Avastin, which could give me another 12 months,” said Mark, who lives with wife Karen and children Sophie, six, and Thomas, four.

“But the NHS does not prescribe it because of where my GP is – in Gainsborough.”

Mark added: “I’m so angry that people can play with your life like this. They are playing God.”

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says at £21,000 a course, Avastin is not cost-effective for NHS use.

Funding therefore lies with the Cancer Drugs Fund which lets local NHS authorities choose which drugs are available for certain cancers.

NHS East Midlands does not fund Avastin for brain cancer patients, but NHS Yorkshire and the Humber does.

This makes it available to patients just 15 miles away in Scunthorpe, and in Sheffield where Mark had his treatment, but not in Gainsborough.

Karen, 32, said: “The treatment should be available to everyone, regardless of where they live and if they can afford to pay for it.”

Mark said: “To see another of the kids’ birthdays and Christmases would be great. Words can’t describe what that would mean to me.”

Mark served almost a decade with the Worcester and Sherwood Foresters regiment touring in Bosnia and Northern Ireland.

While NHS East Midlands can not comment on individual cases, a spokesman said cancer drug funding decisions were made by a panel of local cancer specialists based on clinical and cost-effectiveness criteria. If an application is rejected, it can be reviewed.

A Facebook group has attracted more than 3,000 supporters in less than a week. And an online petition has collected 2,500 signatures.

Sign the petition at www.designcupboard.co.uk/mark/petition.php