Tailor made treatment

Miko Kapidzic works at University of California San Francisco

Did you know that when you get chaemotherapy, you will get a treatment plan that is tailor-made just for you?

The type of treatment you’ll get will depend on the type of cancer, where exactly it is and the stage of development of the cancer. The oncologist will also take into account whether the cancer has spread, your general health and the purpose of the treatment –  to cure or to relieve symptoms.

Research into cancer treatments goes on all the time, and new treatment regimes are always being developed. What that means is that your experience of chaemo may be different to any one else’s.

So, what happens when you get chaemo? It may be administered directly into a vein, it may be given to you in the form of a pill, you may get an injection or it may be applied directly to your skin.

The most common form of administration is through a vein. A thin needle is inserted into a vein on the hand or lower arm. This needle is removed once the chemotherapy has been completed. Chemotherapy can also be given intravenously by means of catheters, ports and pumps. A port is a round plastic or metal chamber that is placed under the skin. It is connected via a thin tube to one of the major vessels in the chest cavity. This method is more permanent and can be used for as long as necessary.

Most patients receive chemotherapy as out-patients in the oncology unit and do not need to be admitted to hospital.

Fix the patent law!

The Fix the Patent Laws coalition is releasing a short video and briefing paper which highlights how South Africa’s existing patent laws are a major barrier for thousands of breast cancer patients in getting a key cancer medicine called trastuzumab.

The short video includes powerful testimonies from three South African HER2 breast cancer patients – among them actress and breast cancer advocate, Lillian Dube, who has lent her support to Fix the Patent Laws.

Watch the VIDEO here: https://youtu.be/Vl5AJa7_pDY



The Fix the Patent Laws coalition is calling on the South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry to wrap up an arduous seven-year-long process to update South Africa’s patent laws and end abusive monopolistic practices that deny patients their right to health.

The Fix the Patent Laws coalition is made up of 18 patient groups representing people living with several diseases. The coalition, initiated by Doctors Without Borders and the Treatment Action Campaign, includes the Cancer Alliance, and Alliance members: the Cancer Association of Southern Africa and People Living with Cancer.

What’s the story?

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Roche has multiple patents on trastuzumab in South Africa, which it markets as Herceptin or Herclon that could maintain its position as the only supplier of the drug until 2033.

Roche’s patents on trastuzumab have already expired in the UK, India, and South Korea, and will expire in the US in 2019

In the South African private sector, HER2 positive breast cancer patients are often denied coverage for a full 12 month course of trastuzumab by medical aids due to its high cost, which is R485, 800, or more if higher dosing is needed.

In the public health system, the vast majority of HER2 positive patients will never even hear about this drug.

In 2013 Roche earned over R100 million from the sale of Herceptin in South Africa’s private sector, and approximately US$6.6 billion in global sales in 2014.

Why should we care?

Since the early 2000s, people in South Africa have challenged patents on medicines that prevented their access to affordable treatment – especially for HIV drugs. We saw the dramatic drop in price of ARVs when monopoly patents were challenged. Today, there are 3.2 million people on ARV treatment.

But patients can’t keep fighting costly individual legal battles for access. The laws themselves have to change.

The existing patent laws on pharmaceutical products are out of date, and do not fully utilize legal safeguards to protect public health allowed under international agreements.

Trastuzumab is a clear example of how South Africa’s current patent laws allow for monopolistic business practices to exclude people from accessing affordable medicines.

Lillian Dube, HER2 breast cancer patient, actress and advocate says: “When [my doctor] told me that my treatment is half a million the first thing that came to mind [is], as a cancer survivor and a supporter, I am with young women and I could see them not being able to access this… There are women who are 40, 30 and they’ve got small children and then they have to lose their lives because they cannot afford Herceptin. It should not be like that.”

Breast cancer survivor and advocate Louise Turner says: “If you do not have the money to buy the drug then you don’t have access to it. Irrespective of where you are in the country you have the right to
access to treatment and access to the drugs needed. Hopefully we can make that change. It will make a huge difference to all women in South Africa.”

Before cancer I didn’t realise just how much I was loved

Tanya Keevy says when your back is against the wall you can either fall apart or you can give it your best. I chose to give it my best!

Throwback Thursday


As we continue exploring treatment options, we decided to take some time to remind you of some posts that you may have missed.

Did you see this one? It is a video that explains what chemo is.

This one tells you how to prepare for treatment.


And this one gives you the key questions you should ask when you are getting treatment.


Let us know how you get on! We want to hear your stories.

I decided to live!

Thobeka Dadisaid that chaemotherapy was very difficult: “I thought I would rather die” but support from her family, colleagues and community pulled her through.



Never give up!

Nontobeko Sikiti, who was diagnosed in 2012, says that after treatment, there are good results, so she advises other survivors to never give up!

(we apologise for the bad sound quality on this video)

It has been a good journey!

Merlin Osborne – a survivor for eight years – says that running keeps her sane – including running away from negativity!