Vicky Phelan, a native of Mooncoin
A Kilkenny native and mother-of-two facing a terminal cancer diagnosis is "closer to getting on the clinical trial" in the US than she is to getting a potentially lifesaving drug here in Ireland.
Given just 12 months to live by her oncologists, Vicky Phelan set up a GoFundMe page which has raised almost €141,000 since February 13 of this year to help pay for treatment.
Vicky – who currently lives in Annacotty in Limerick but is originally from Mooncoin– previously said her goal was to raise €100,000 to access a clinical trial in Maryland, USA and meet the associated costs.
A tumour block has now been sent over to the US to be analysed and it is the “last piece of the puzzle”, Vicky says but it will take two weeks before they have a result which will determine whether she gets accepted on to the clinical trial.
The 43-year-old mother of two added: "I am closer to getting on the clinical trial than I am to getting access to immunotherapy drug, pembrolizumab, here in Ireland which is a sad state of affairs."
The hope is that the drug will halt the spread of her cancer before she gets formally accepted for the clinical trial in the US.
Vicky says the money raised so far will cover most of the cost of the trial, but it will only cover about half the cost of her back-up trial in New York which could be in the region of over €200,000.
Vicky, who is married to Jim and is mother to Amelia, 12, and Darragh, 7, was first diagnosed with cervical cancer in July 2014, but following an aggressive course of radiation and chemotherapy, was given the all-clear late that year.
A routine scan in November last year, however, showed a large mass of lymph nodes around her aorta, which is inoperable.
A doctor told Vicky the Maryland trial was an excellent one to get on to if she could, but pointed out that one of the drugs it used, pembrolizumab, was what she should really be chasing.
“It's made by Merck, Sharp and Dohme, says Vicky, “which I pass in Clonmel every week on the way to work (in Waterford Institute of Technology), but it’s only licenced in Ireland for melanoma and some rare lung cancer, because it’s so expensive."
The drug is now expected to cost in the region of €10,000 per dose.
“It’s a numbers game,” she sighs, “the pharmaceutical firms won’t licence it for cancers like mine because there is only a small number of patients and it's not worth their while. It’s all down to money, unfortunately.”
To donate to Vicky’s GoFundMe page, visit www.gofundme.com/savevickyphelan