Oxford

BOC pays woman's asbestos-caused cancer treatment costs

Pamela Stubberfield Image copyright Pamela Stubberfield
Image caption Pamela Stubberfield (pictured with her husband Derek) was diagnoed with sarcomatoid mesothelioma in 2016

A woman with cancer caused by asbestos exposure is having life-saving private treatment in what has been called a "first-of-its-kind" settlement.

Pamela Stubberfield, 74, said "she wouldn't be here" without the drugs paid for by ex-employer BOC.

She was exposed to asbestos in her job in the early-1960s and diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2016.

The cancer can take decades to develop, but kills about 90% of patients within five years of diagnosis.

Mrs Stubberfield, from Wantage, Oxfordshire, was working as laboratory technician for BOC for three weeks after leaving school when she came into contact with asbestos.

"I just knew that I had been exposed but I thought it had been a fairly brief period and that I had been lucky", Mrs Stubberfield said.

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Media captionFirm pays woman's cancer bill after unique settlement

Mesothelioma sufferers can make compensation claims against a liable employer, but the process can be complex - especially if the company has since gone out of business.

Mrs Stubberfield's solicitors Fieldfisher said this case was unique because it was the first time an insurer had agreed to pay directly for treatment indefinitely, providing it was appropriate.

'Game changer' drug

She is being treated with an immunotherapy drug called Pembrolizumab that is not available on the NHS for mesothelioma.

Her consultant, Dr Peter Szlosarek, said the drug was a "game changer" for certain patients and worked by interfering with signals from tumour cells which stop the body from attacking them.

Without it, he said the cancer could have killed her within four to six months of diagnosis in September 2016.

Mrs Stubberfield said her tumours have since reduced in size, and now believes the treatment can "cure" her.

BOC said it was "very sorry" she developed her condition but was pleased she is receiving ongoing treatment funded by its insurers.

"We hope that her treatment continues to be successful," it added.

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