The Trust attended the meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Minimally Invasive Cancer Therapies today to represent patients with liver cancer. Members of Parliament, clinicians and other patient groups discussed how the recommendations in the newly launched report titled ‘Barriers to Patient Access of Minimally Invasive Cancer Therapies’ could be implicated. Link to report: Barriers to Patient Access of Minimally Invasive Cancer Therapies.
One of the therapies the report is seeking to address is selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) which was approved by NICE for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma in 2021.
Vanessa Hebditch, our Director of Policy and Communications, had previously given evidence to the APPG enquiry on behalf of liver cancer patients. Martyn, one of our supporters, who was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2014 and was treated with selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) also kindly assisted the APPG by telling his story.
The report has three key recommendations :
1 Enable patient choice by improving awareness of new and emerging treatments for cancer:
- The NHS website should include information on all available cancer interventions, referencing NICE recommendations where appropriate. All patients should be routinely informed to enable them to make an informed choice about their care if they wish.
- The NHS should ensure that interventional radiology/oncology representation is present at every relevant organ specific multidisciplinary team e.g. Liver, Kidney, Prostate to ensure appropriate expertise allowing patient choice.
2 Ensure appropriate processes and infrastructure:
- The Government should prioritise a strategic workforce plan for radiologists and interventional radiologists. This should ensure the NHS has sufficient numbers of trained interventional radiologists to deliver interventional oncology therapies including Selective Internal Radiational Therapy (SIRT), High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) and Ablation in more centres.
- Build on the existing infrastructure created by the 21 Cancer Alliances to ensure that minimally invasive cancer therapies are offered across the country.
- NHS England must ensure new centres have the resources to introduce new services when recommended by NICE, ensuring an equitable and timely service throughout the country and reducing the need for very sick patients to travel long distances.
3 Ensure sufficient funding for approved cancer therapies:
- Ensure that the full benefits of current investment into diagnostic and imaging technology are realised, by making similar investments into MICT that utilise these imaging technologies. An increase in access to diagnosis via imaging alone, without a corresponding increase in access to therapies, will not improve cancer outcomes.
- Provide a simple pathway to funding, to ensure swift access for patients.
- Ensure that Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) are held to account, adhering to national guidance and ensuring patient access to treatments.
Vanessa Hebditch, told parliamentarians that clinicians in some areas of the country are not aware of the new therapies that are available for patients. This is because no hospital in their local area is offering selective internal therapy and they are not aware of referral pathways to specialist centres.
She said, “NICE approved this technology but we are still hearing 18 months on that patients cannot access this treatment. Patients are forced to travel long distances, in poor health, to access it as there are too few specialist interventional oncology centres. We need national leadership to promote equity of access so that selective internal radiation therapy is available to every patient who would benefit from it.”
Selective internal radiation therapy (SIRT) is a way of giving radiotherapy treatment for cancer in the liver that can’t be removed with surgery. It’s a type of internal radiotherapy, and is sometimes called radioembolisation. You can read more about access to SIRT here.