Hope for melanoma vaccine to save lives | Fieldfisher
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Hope for melanoma vaccine to save lives

Melanoma, a type of skin cancer that tends to spread around the body if not caught early, affects around 16,700 people annually in the UK, according to Cancer Research UK, killing 2,300.

Patients diagnosed with malignant melanoma have generally found a new mole, or a change in an existing mole, which may bleed or itch. Localised melanoma can be successfully treated by wide excision, but the outlook for patients with metastatic melanoma is poor unfortunately, meaning early diagnosis is crucial.  

Now, a vaccine trialled within the NHS has been found to halve the risk of death or relapse and is another tentative success story for combining the immunotherapy drug pembrolizumab with an effective vaccine. 

The trial results of the combined treatment showed that the vaccine cut the risk of cancer returning and death by 49 per cent compared with patients only taking pembrolizumab, which is the current standard treatment.

The vaccine is based on the same MRNA technology pioneered to create Covid jabs. It is injected into patients following surgery to make double sure that all the cancer cells have been eradicated.

Currently, people concerned about a mole see their GP and if there are concerns, are then referred to a specialist dermatologist within the two- week cancer referral pathway. In some cases, however, negligent errors occur within this system meaning there is a delay in diagnosis that can have very serious consequences.

My colleague in the medical negligence team ran such a claim based on evidence from our GP expert who believed that had our client, John, been referred to hospital at his first GP appointment, he would have received appropriate treatment and would have had a virtually normal life expectancy. Very sadly, delays in referral meant the cancer was caught too late and John died.

At a settlement meeting with the relevant parties, a six-figure sum was agreed to compensate John's widow for the loss of his support.

Read more about the case.

Meanwhile, I am currently investigating a claim also involving a delay by clinicians at a GP practice to refer my client under the two-week referral pathway for suspected cancer  after she presented with changes to an existing mole consistent with a melanoma

When my client was referred to a specialist for review at a later stage, she was subsequently diagnosed with malignant melanoma which had metastasised and she underwent treatment, including immunotherapy. 

Delayed diagnoses are thankfully rare but tend to be the result of failures to carry out an adequate examination or failure to advise a patient to return if a suspicious lump or mole change or grows. Delays also occur when a patient is not referred to a dermatologist or plastic surgeon quickly or pathologists misreport a biopsy.

If you have been affected by a delayed diagnosis, please contact me for a confidential, no-obligation conversation to discuss a potential claim. 

Read more about melanoma misdiagnosis claims.