New cancer cure Tarceva to be trialled by March mum
PUBLISHED: 10:43 20 September 2006 | UPDATED: 22:14 28 May 2010
A MARCH mum has been chosen to help trial a new cancer drug which could give hope to thousands of other sufferers. Tarceva is already available on the NHS in Scotland but the rest of the UK will have to wait until next year before it is prescribed. Judit
A MARCH mum has been chosen to help trial a new cancer drug which could give hope to thousands of other sufferers.
Tarceva is already available on the NHS in Scotland but the rest of the UK will have to wait until next year before it is prescribed.
Judith Smith was given just a year to live after being diagnosed with lung cancer in August 2004 - in the summer she walked a 5km Race for Life.
Still hanging determinedly on to life a year after the shock diagnosis, she had already read about the new drug when she was given the chance to take part in the trial. She said: "I know I have been very lucky to have been given this chance. It is an expensive drug and I don't know what the funding will be like for it."
She has been taking Tarceva for almost a year and says it has made a big difference to her quality of life. Instead of relying on a wheelchair she can now walk to the shops and join in family activities with her husband and two children.
Judith, 39, said: "It has definitely improved the quality of my life. I feel a lot better in myself and my breathing is better. I still get tired but I can pace myself and I can walk into town or to meet my son from school.
"Chemotherapy did shrink the tumour but in a matter of weeks it had grown again. Since I have been taking Tarceva it is still there but it is not getting any bigger."
The daily tablet seems to be particularly effective in women and non smokers. It specifically targets tumour cells, avoiding some of the common side effects of chemotherapy. Taking the drug at home also means fewer hospital visits.
Judith of Oxbow Crescent has spoken out before about her illness in a bid to bring lung cancer into the spotlight. She wants to spread the message that it is not just chain-smoking old men who get the disease.
Statistics show Fenland tops the East of England league of people dying each year from the disease. Judith was a young, fit and a non-smoker when she was given the devastating news that she had a large malignant tumour on her left lung.
Three weeks after the initial diagnosis she was told the cancer had spread to her bones and she was given a year to live. She had originally gone to her GP about a persistent cough and was sent for a chest X-ray when antibiotics didn't get rid of it.
Tarceva does have side effects, but Judith says she can cope with them if the drug is giving her time to share with her family. Her hair and nails grow at a rapid rate and she also gets a skin rash.
She said: "These are just minor irritations which I can put up with. It is now coming up to a crucial time, they don't really know what happens after a year. They will provide it for me as long as it is keeping the tumour under control."
* Lung cancer is the biggest cancer killer in the UK. It is responsible for almost one third of cancer deaths.
* Around 85-90 per cent of cases are caused by smoking.
* Each year around 38,000 new cases are diagnosed in the UK.
* In 2003 more than 33,400 people in the UK died of the disease.
* The incidence of lung cancer in men has fallen by more than 40 per cent over the past 20 years, mainly as a result of the decline in smoking. The incidence in women is rising, there are now more lung cancer deaths in women than from breast cancer in the UK.
* Being subjected to passive smoking may increase the risk in non-smokers of developing the disease by 24 per cent.
* Common symptoms include breathing difficulties, coughing up blood, chest pain, weight loss, general fatigue.