Cancer drug may be used

PUBLISHED: 12:35 23 January 2006 | UPDATED: 21:37 28 May 2010

FENLAND women suffering the early stages of breast cancer may be able to use the acclaimed drug Herceptin despite it not yet being UK licensed for use in early cancers. An interim policy by Cambridgeshire Oncologists for its use by women defined as high-r

FENLAND women suffering the early stages of breast cancer may be able to use the acclaimed drug Herceptin despite it not yet being UK licensed for use in early cancers.An interim policy by Cambridgeshire Oncologists for its use by women defined as high-risk, has been accepted by East Cambridgeshire and Fenland Primary Care Trust.The policy states: "It is estimated there will be 24 to 30 patients in this group over 12 to 15 months."This ruling will remain in force until the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) releases guidance into Herceptin's use in the summer.Herceptin has attracted massive international interest with trials showing an 8.4 per cent disease-free survival for patients with early breast cancer treated with the drug after chemotherapy.However, women will have to conform to specific criteria and will be made aware of possible adverse side effects, including heart problems.To be able to use Herceptin, women will have to be found to be 'HER2 positive'. This refers to the HER2 receptor being present on the surface of cells.If HER2 is present, Herceptin has been found to attach itself, blocking growth and destroying the cancer cell.The Department of Health announced in October 2005 that all women with early stage breast cancer should be tested for the HER2 receptor.The statement reads: "Prescription will be on specific individual circumstances and a matter for a woman's doctor and PCT board."Cancer specialists have stressed to potential users that, as the drug is not UK licensed for use in early breast cancer that litigation could prove impossible if adverse effects did occur.Roche is expected to apply to the European Medicines Evaluation Agency for a licence next month, with a decision due in July.

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