Kiwi women plead for Pharmac funding of a newly approved breakthrough treatment for ovarian cancer

Kiwi women living with advanced ovarian cancer can now access a breakthrough new treatment.

It significantly reduces the risk of the disease recurring after chemotherapy and it's just been approved by Medsafe.

For Lisa Finucane, every day is worth celebrating.

Because in 2010, she was diagnosed with low grade serious ovarian cancer.

"I did all the reading and I was planning my own funeral... fortunately, I'm still here," Finucane told Newshub. 

"I knew nothing about ovarian cancer. I had no understanding of it."

Ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynaecological cancer in New Zealand and every day, there's a new diagnosis.

The problem is - it's tricky to identify. Symptoms are vague and can be similar to other things that women experience, like menopause.

"When I got my first symptoms, I thought I was just starting menopause... I got an ultrasound and found out pretty quickly I had tumours," Finucane says. 

Symptoms of ovarian cancer can include bloating, eating less and feeling fuller, abdominal or back pain and bowel habit changes, among others.

"We do treat it with surgery and chemotherapy, but ultimately those treatments reach the limit of their usefulness," Medical Oncologist Dr Rosalie Stephens told Newshub. 

"For most women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, it does prove fatal and it does cause women to be quite unwell, during that time."

But now, there's a more effective option on the table. It's called Niraparib.

Research shows it can reduce the risk of cancer recurring by 38 percent.

"This class of medications can really significantly extend that remission. That means delaying the time to your next chemotherapy treatment. You can imagine that has a big impact on day-to-day enjoyment, and quality of life," Stephens told Newshub. 

"The more choices we have in oncology, the better we can do at keeping women well, for as long as possible."

Rosalie says, unlike chemotherapy, Niraparib has minimal side effects and is less harsh on the body. 

What's more, it's in tablet form, which means it can be taken from the comfort of home.

"That's really appealing as well. You can be doing what you want to do, living your life, and not having the burden of coming into an oncology unit," Stephens said.

But it does come at a cost. Because while it has recently been approved by Medsafe, it's not yet funded by Pharmac.

It's something those living with the disease want to see changed.

"Pharmac, please help us. Please step forward and fund this pill, to help us have a quality of life with our families," Hayley Smith told Newshub. 

Hayley was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer just eight months ago and knows time isn't on her side.

She's about to start taking Niraparib as part of a trial and knows the difference it will make.

"It's going to enable me to have more time with my family - I'm so grateful," Smith said.     

"We're going out to buy a caravan just so we can take off and spend more time [together]. Just to be a family and build those memories for my husbands and my daughters and just be happy."

Quality time that you can't put a price tag on.