The announcement that 13 new cancer drugs would not be funded this year was disappointing.

Australia has already funded Opdivo (2018) and Keytruda (2022), and many had hoped Keytruda would be included on the list, given the intention to bridge the gap between New Zealand and Australia. Merck Sharpe Dohme, the manufacturer, has a strong presence in New Zealand.

While Keytruda and Opdivo are not a cure for most patients, they have been shown to prolong life without severe side effects for a significant number of individuals in the international head and neck cancer community.

On a positive note, our private Facebook group continues to thrive. Massey University has conducted a qualitative survey on attitudes to nutrition in head and neck cancer patients, and a second Master’s student is exploring other aspects of nutritional needs.

Nutrition is a challenge for many head and neck cancer patients, particularly after radiotherapy, which can cause strictures in the oesophagus, and surgery, which can impact swallowing. We receive numerous questions about managing peg feeds and transitioning off them.

Patient stories are invaluable, as they often share coping strategies we may not have considered. Ian Henderson has provided excellent advice on navigating the system, all while maintaining a great sense of humour.