Sally Xu needs cancer medicine to stay alive but Pharmac doesn’t fund it.

Young Aucklander Sally Xu will die soon unless she can raise $150,000 for a new cancer medicine.

Ms Xu, a 24-year-old from Botany who is a trained early childhood education teacher, has never been able to work since she finished training because of an aggressive form of Hodgkin's lymphoma, a blood-related cancer that started in her neck three and a half years ago and has spread into her chest close to her heart.

She has had four chemotherapy treatments, three radiotherapy treatments and a stem cell transplant from her sister, but nothing has worked.

Ms Xu doesn't know how long she will live now without the new medicine, saying: "I have never asked my doctor because I don't want it to play in my head. The doctor said it won't be long."


She has had two treatments at Mercy Ascot Hospital of a new drug called Brentuximab, which was granted accelerated approval for Hodgkin's lymphoma by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2011. An x-ray has shown that her tumours have shrunk.

"I'm actually feeling great," she said.

But Pharmac does not yet fund the drug in New Zealand, so Ms Xu needs to raise $150,000 to complete the first nine treatments, and possibly $300,000 if she needs a full 16 treatments.

She has raised $25,000 so far through the Givealittle website, $15,000 from friends, family members and a movie night, and $1120 selling "Save Sally" raffle and movie tickets at the Botany Town Centre last week.

"It was quite good because everyone was very nice," she said. "But we were only allowed to stay in one area so we just stood there and tried to attract people's attention."

Ms Xu was supported at the town centre, and throughout her battle with the cancer, by Victor Labuschagne, her partner whom she has known since primary school. They got together at Botany Downs Secondary College eight years ago.

"He has looked after me throughout these whole three years," she said. "He actually gave up his study to look after me. Now he's studying by distance learning, doing a bachelor in economics, and working at Westpac in Queen St."

The couple's latest fundraising effort is another $20 movie night at Event Cinemas in Queen St this Wednesday to see a new film with Scarlett Johansson, Lucy.

Leukaemia and Blood Foundation medical director Dr Peter Browett said the new drug was "a major advance in treatment of Hodgkin's lymphoma" and had shown very high response rates in patients, but it was too soon to say how long the new treatment could keep the disease at bay.

Hodgkin's lymphoma
*Cancer originating from white blood cells.
*Affects 2.7 people in every 100,000 each year in the United States.
*Usually treated with general chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
*New targeted drug has helped US patients not cured by general therapies, but it is not yet funded in New Zealand.

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