Cancer patient Steve Wilson shares experience with Keytruda in hopes of saving others

A Thames man is sharing his experience with cancer drug Keytruda in the hope it will help his children and other New Zealand families.

Sixty-three-year-old Steve Wilson says his life was saved after he paid $100,000 out of his own pocket to receive Keytruda treatment.

Now he wants it made accessible through funding from Pharmac for a number of other cancers including the one he had.

Wilson battled cancer for more than a decade with tumours found in his colon, kidney, and stomach.

In 2017, when cancer was found again - this time on his bowel and spleen - he was told to prepare for the end of his life.

"We were on a knife edge at that point, and three doctors came into the room and said, 'it's inoperable, get your things in order'," he says.

However, another surgeon introduced him to Keytruda - an immunotherapy drug given through a drip.

It isn't funded for Wilson's type of cancer - and it cost him and his partner Karen $100,000. But in a matter of weeks his tumour had halved.

"Not many New Zealanders are going to be able to afford the $100,000," he says.

Keytruda is currently only funded for treating advanced melanoma. But it has just been registered for the type of cancer Wilson had: MSI-High - a sub-group of highly-mutated tumours.

"The drug is one step closer to being looked at by Pharmac which means it's another step closer to being in the hands of everyday New Zealanders," says Dr Chris Jackson, medical director of the Cancer Society NZ.

"Really, for the most part, their only way of accessing it is through Pharmac funding."

Wilson is now in remission but his concern has shifted to his kids. He has Lynch syndrome, which means the type of cancer he has can be passed down.

"Two of my three children have the gene, and now some of them, we've got grandchildren, so there's a need to sort this problem," he says.

He wants the drug that gave him hope to be available for all New Zealanders, not just a lucky few who can afford to pay $100,000 for the chance to save their lives.