Islington cancer sufferer refused funding for life-saving treatment
16:50 22 September 2012
A cancer sufferer has been denied funding for life-saving treatment for the second time in his three-year battle against the disease.
NHS North Central London has refused Hakki Altinok, of Elia Street, Islington, a pioneering type of radiation therapy recommended by his consultant at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Surrey to treat a small tumour in the middle of his brain.
The lump was discovered when the 65-year-old underwent successful brain surgery in March to remove another larger tumour from behind his ear.
Doctors have since decided that the best chance of curing the remaining shadow lies in the CyberKnife treatment, which uses precise pencil beams of radiation to treat cancers once thought to be inoperable.
Mr Altinok was also refused funding for a cancer drug on his diagnosis of renal kidney cancer back in 2009 – but NHS Islington eventually granted his appeal against the decision after the Gazette and MP for Islington South and Finsbury, Emily Thornberry, took up the case.
Although the cancer was not cured, the subsequent treatment has allowed Mr Altinok to have a good quality of life and the grandfather of five has been left devastated by the latest refusal for funding.
He said: “It feels like the PCT has handed me a death sentence, only this time it will be a painful death. Other boroughs have granted applications for this treatment which will actually cure the tumour and it won’t require ongoing treatment.
“Without the most effective treatment, I won’t just die, I will slowly lose the functions of my brain and die slowly and painfully, killing my whole family with me.”
Other treatment options involve further surgery or painful, less accurate radiotherapy sessions – and Mr Altinok said his consultant is adamant this will put his health and long-term recovery at risk and force him to come off medication to keep the cancer affecting his lungs under control.
Ms Thornberry has written to NHS North Central London urging them to grant Mr Altinok’s funding as soon as possible, to avoid any further delay and deterioration in his condition. She said: “Having successfully fought the cancer so bravely for so many years, I can completely understand why Mr Altinok thinks it’s critical to take his consultant’s advice and is so desperate to access this relatively painless and non-invasive treatment.”
A spokesman for NHS North Central London said: “We take the needs of individual patients very seriously indeed, but we are required to balance these against the needs of the whole population we serve when we are spending NHS resources.”
She said the trust looked very closely at each request for treatment not routinely funded by the NHS.
She claimed there was no robust evidence showing the CyberKnife treatment is more clinically effective than other more readily available treatments.