Gainsborough dad fights for his life

Mark Bannister has been told he is not eligible for treatment for his brain tumour because of where he lives. Mark is pictured with his wife Karen and children Sophie and Thomas G110909-1a
Mark Bannister has been told he is not eligible for treatment for his brain tumour because of where he lives. Mark is pictured with his wife Karen and children Sophie and Thomas G110909-1a
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A GAINSBOROUGH dad and former soldier fears he may only have one year left with his family if he can not get the cancer drugs he needs.

Mark Bannister, 37, of Springfield Close, has been refused cancer-fighting drug Avastin which he believes could slow the growth of his brain tumour.

He has battled the disease for eight years, undergoing three operations and various courses of radiotherapy and chemotherapy.

But the latest course of chemo was not successful and doctors have told him without further treatment he may only have 12 months to live.

“My oncologist has recommended Avastin, which could give me another 12 months,” said Mark, who lives with wife Karen and children Sophie, six, and Thomas, four.

“But the NHS does not prescribe it because of where my doctor’s surgery is – in Gainsborough.”

Mark added: “I’m just so angry that people can play with your life by saying who can and can’t have treatment.”

“They are playing God.”

Avastin is a tumour-starving therapy that works by cutting off the blood supply to a tumour.

It is more commonly used to treat breast, bowel and kidney cancers, but it has been used to fight brain cancer.

But the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) says at £21,000 a course, it is not cost-effective for use by the NHS.

Funding for Avastin therefore lies with the Cancer Drugs Fund which lets local NHS authorities choose which drugs are bought for patients with certain cancers.

NHS East Midlands does not fund Avastin for brain cancer patients, but NHS Yorkshire and the Humber does.

This means it is available for patients just 15 miles away in Scunthorpe, and in Sheffield where Mark had all of his cancer treatment, but not in Gainsborough.

His application to the local Cancer Drugs fund has already been turned down.

Karen, 32, said: “The treatment should be available to everyone, regardless of where they live and whether they can afford to pay for it. If we had the money we’d buy it tomorrow.”

“Weston Park Hospital in Sheffield has seen success with brain tumour patients on Avastin, so we think it’s worth a shot.”

Mark added: “You never know before you try – it could be total cure.”

“To see another of the kids’ birthdays and Christmases would be great. Words can’t describe what that would mean to me.”

Karen said their two children do not know how ill Mark is.

“They know daddy is poorly and he goes to hospital a lot but they don’t know the bigger picture,” said Karen.

“It’s devastating. I just think if the NHS board could see Mark and our family they might think differently.”

Mark served almost a decade as an infantryman with the Worcester and Sherwood Foresters regiment. He toured several times in Bosnia and Northern Ireland.

NHS East Midlands said it could not comment on individual cases.

A spokesman said cancer drug funding decisions were made by a panel of local cancer specialists based on clinical and cost-effectiveness criteria. If an application is rejected, it can be reviewed.

While the family fights on, a Facebook group called Mark Bannister’s Urgent Appeal For Treatment has attracted more than 3,000 supporters in less than a week.

And an online petition has collected 2,500 signatures.

Mark said: “I’m absolutely blown away by how many people have supported our appeal. It’s amazing.”

Karen and Mark have vowed to fight until the authorities take action.

Karen said: “We’ve written to our MP Edward Leigh, and I’m prepared to take this petition to Downing Street if we get enough signatures.”

For an issue to be discussed in Parliament, petitions must reach 100,000 signatures, so there is a long way to go.

Mark said: “I’m a father. I’m not going to sit back and give up. It’s worth a fight and I’m willing to go all the way.”

Go to www.designcupboard.co.uk/mark/petition.php to sign the petition.