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Lung cancer victims to get vital drug Alimta

Aug 6 2009 by Joanne Butcher, Evening Chronicle

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LUNG cancer victims are celebrating the approval of a new treatment.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has today recommended cancer drug Alimta as a first-line treatment for a type of lung cancer.

The chemotherapy drug is now set to be made available for NHS patients as another treatment option to tackle tumours.

It is estimated that it will benefit 120 patients every year in the North East.

But scores of desperately ill people in the region have already been given Alimta since it was approved by a Newcastle-based body in January this year.

The North of England Cancer Drug Approvals Group gave the drug the thumbs-up seven months ahead of today’s national guidance.

Lung cancer is the UK’s biggest cancer killer and the second most common cancer in the UK after breast cancer, accounting for one in 20 of all deaths nationwide.

But Alimta, which is administered via a drip alongside plantinum-based drug, cisplatin, has been shown in clinical trials to extend life beyond one year in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which accounts for 80% of all lung cancers in the UK.

It also improves sufferers’ comfort by reducing patients’ hair loss and the need for constant blood transfusions.

And as only one dose is needed every three weeks it requires less trips to hospital than many current treatments on offer.

Alimta, which has previously hit the headlines as a treatment for asbestos cancer Mesothelioma, is currently recommended as second line treatment for NSCLC.

This means patients must have tried and failed with other options before they can be given a course of Alimta.

But NICE is now recommending the chemotherapy drug as initial treatment for Large-Cell Carcinoma and Adenocarcinoma NSCLC patients, two of the most common types of the cancer.

Nick Thatcher, Professor in Medical Oncology at The Christie NHS Foundation Trust said: “This decision is truly significant and is fantastic news for lung cancer patients in the UK and the clinicians who have been campaigning for access.

“NICE should be commended on allowing UK patients to be the first to have funded access to this combination for the first line treatment.”

A spokesperson for the North of England Cancer Drug Approvals Group said: “The North East has a strong track record in approving cancer drugs for use by the region’s patients. We have approved some drugs far in advance of approval by the NICE for example Herceptin for breast cancer, Alimta for asbestos related lung cancer, Tarceva for lung cancer, Sutent for kidney cancer and Temozolomide for brain cancer.

“We welcome NICE’s announcement today to recommend the use of this combination as it supports our decision seven months ago to approve this drug.

“We expected 120 patients each year to benefit.”

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