Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

New medication provides hope for Benalla mother

Kate Wagner is closer to receiving breakthrough melanoma medication after authorities approved its use in Australia.

MONIQUE FREER May 28, 2014 3:31am

Kate Wagner was diagnosed with stage four metastatic melanoma after the birth of her son Maclan in July. Benalla Ensign on 8/01/2014 CAPTION: Kate Wagner was diagnosed with stage four metastatic melanoma after the birth of her son Maclan in July.

Benalla mother Kate Wagner is one step closer to receiving potentially lifesaving medication after Australian medical authorities granted access to an experimental melanoma drug.

After pleas from cancer patients, their families and medical professionals, the Therapeutic Goods Administration last week granted advanced melanoma patients access to a limited amount of the PD-1 drug, MK-3475.

Mrs Wagner was diagnosed with stage four metastatic melanoma last July, one week after giving birth to her son Maclan.

After doctors found two tumours in her brain and two in her right lung she had two craniotomies and whole-brain radiation, in anticipation of beginning a clinical trial of the breakthrough new melanoma drug.

However as the disease progressed the clinical trial closed, leaving her without access to the medication.

Instead Mrs Wagner began treatment on Yervoy — which has just a 20 per cent success rate — and began campaigning for Australian access to the PD-1 drug.

The Benalla mother is yet to know whether she will have access to the drug that was hailed as a breakthrough in the United States.

‘‘While I felt intense relief when I found out accessibility for Australians was to become reality, my feelings were somewhat mixed,’’ Mrs Wagner said.

‘‘I am still a few weeks away from knowing if I am eligible to receive the drug as I must first wait to finish the current treatment I am receiving. When and if I do become eligible, there is no word yet on how many places are available and indeed how long the sponsored aspect of the program will run.’’

The program is now open for application, and Mrs Wagner said if and when she got the drug depended on several factors.

‘‘How long it takes to actually receive MK-3475 will depend on the individual circumstances of the patient, and how quickly their oncologist submits their information,’’ she said.

‘‘I’m excited for my fellow late-stage sufferers and their families, but nervous for my own — and I will stay that way until I have the needle in my arm.’’

Although she faces a nervous wait until that time, Mrs Wagner said the decision brought her a sense of personal accomplishment.

‘‘It validates all of those nights where I set my alarm for 3am to make the calls to the US, the constant flow of emails and calls my to own cancer centre here in Australia and all of the attempts made by me and my wonderfully supportive friends to get this issue heard via radio, television, print and social media,’’ she said.

This Sunday Kate’s friends and family will host ‘Shave or Colour for Kate’ to raise funds for the Wagners.

The event will be held at Farmers Arms Hotel from 11.30am, with a sausage sizzle and auction.

Mrs Wagner’s mother Lois Jackson and stepdaughter Lizzy Wagner are among those who will shave their heads.

To donate goods, services or vouchers, phone Julie Harrison on 0422367766 or email or phone Renata Carmody on 0488139481.

To register to shave or colour your hair, phone Sam Elenitsas before June 1 on 0403518349.

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