A former student development director denied potentially life-saving cancer treatment on the NHS has launched a campaign to help him raise £200,000 for the drug.
Momenul Haque was diagnosed with the most advanced form of colon cancer in December 2014 and underwent a year of gruelling chemotherapy through the NHS, starting on Christmas Eve that year.
He was later told that his cancer had spread after undergoing surgery where a tumour the size of an iPhone was removed; his colon was taken out and he was fitted with a stoma – a pouch to collect his waste.
Doctors then said there were no other treatments available to him on the NHS. However, the 33-year-old’s hopes were raised when he was informed about a new immunotherapy drug called Pembrolizumab which has a high success rate, only to be told he would have to pay an eye-watering £200,000 for it.
Adamant to help, his friends and family began fundraising. They have so far collected £120,000 for Haque, who has since begun the expensive treatment. Each dose of the drug costs £7,000, and the north Londoner has been told he will need 17 courses every three weeks.
Haque, whose father died of bowel cancer when he was a baby, is now three months into the course.
“When I got the diagnosis, it was a complete shock. All I wanted to do was break down, cry and hide, but something inside me said I needed to be strong,” he told Eastern Eye.
“We applied to the drug companies directly for compassionate usage, but they said the drug was available to buy, so we are not going to give it for free.
“I was in a state of depression but my family said we need to do something, we can’t live with ourselves without trying. Within a month, we had raised enough to start the treatment. I’m humbled by the support.”
Haque’s MP, Labour’s Keir Starmer, tweeted last Thursday (28): “Not acceptable that my constituent, Momenul Haque, has to crowd-fund his own cancer treatment.”
Starmer has written to health secretary Jeremy Hunt asking for help on the issue and said it was regrettable and unacceptable that anyone should have to fund potentially life-saving treatment in this way.
Haque said: “Nobody sees me at 2am waking up in tears in pain. It has been tough, I have been questioning my existence, but I got so much love and support from friends and family, and people who hear my story and want to help. That has been phenomenal and so inspiring.”
Pembrolizumab has been described as one of the most exciting new drugs in cancer treatment. It is believed to have helped former US president Jimmy Carter to beat brain cancer last year and differs from chemotherapy, working by boosting the immune system to fight the cancer cells rather than killing them.
To donate to the appeal, go to https://crowdfunding.justgiving.com/keepinghope