THE family of a four-year-old boy with a rare cancer, still reeling from the same diagnosis for his baby sister, are 'delighted' a vital drug which could save both their lives will now be available on the NHS.

Oliver Welch missed out on a clinical trial of the immunotherapy treatment paid for by the government by just 14 days in June.

To add to his parents' Adam (31) and 32-year-old Louise's heartache, just a few weeks later his 17-month old sister Eva was also diagnosed with neuroblastoma, an unusual type of the disease mainly affecting children.

Since that decision the company which produces dinutuximab beta has paid for three rounds of treatment for Oliver while National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) made a decision on the drugs general use.

On Thursday it ruled the drug should become generally available free on the NHS for children suffering Stage Four neuroblastoma like Oliver.

The move followed its agreeing a discount on the price tag of £152,000 per course of treatment with manufacturers EUSA Pharma.

Mr Welch, aged 31 of Oakdale in Blackburn, said: "We are absolutely delighted with this decision.

"This means he can definitely have his remaining two courses of treatment. EUSA Pharma have paid for his first three courses to everyone's surprise but it been a separate decision for each one.

"It's been hand to mouth but now the long agonising wait is over.

"It's been really difficult, especially as Eva has now being diagnosed with neuroblastoma.

"This was a horrendous shock especially as the consultants had never seen or heard of two siblings having it before.

"It was tough to find out. It was the worst year of our lives with the two blows coming so close together.

"Being in the hospital while Oliver had the treatment knowing that other families were not getting it has been particularly hard.

"Now hopefully it will be available to all the Stage Four children who need it, possibly including Eva if her cancer develops that far.

"Oliver is responding treatment and Eva is OK so far. It was heartbreaking when she was diagnosed but if her brother had not suffered the disease we would not have spotted the symptoms so early which is some small relief.

"We are looking on the positive side. Oliver is doing well and we caught Eva's cancer early.

"Louise and I still have them both and hopefully they will both recover."

East Lancashire has seen several children diagnosed with neuroblastoma including Madison Allan (who died of the disease aged seven in 2011) and Theo Power aged eight, both of Lower Darwen; Sam Shaw from Hoddlesden; Jessica Whelan from Oswaldtwistle (who died aged four in November 2016); and Rachel Flynn from Darwen.

Madison's mother Samantha, who runs the Maddis Butterflies support charity, said: "It is welcome that there are now more treatment options on the NHS available to children suffering from neuroblastoma. Anything that can be done to help them should be."

Graham Jordan, grandfather of Theo Power and a trustee of his charity Theo's Warriors, said: "This is fantastic news.

"It's absolutely the right thing to do.Theo is currently doing alright."

Rossendale and Darwen MP Jake Berry said: "This is extremely welcome news.

"Neuroblastoma has affected a number of families across my constituency. The fact that this treatment will now be available on the NHS gives new hope to them and their families."

Blackburn MP Kate Hollern said: "I am absolutely delighted for the Welches and all the other local families this news will give new hope to."

NICE said that while there is uncertainty around the long-term clinical benefit of the drug, the potential survival gain offered by its use was 'substantial'.

Neuroblastoma affects around 100 children each year in the UK, most commonly under five.