June 14, 2008

Tomlinson Cancer Drug Gets UK Launch

A CANCER drug that Jane Tomlinson's husband said should be made widely available has been launched in the UK.

Lapatinib can prolong the lives of women suffering a type of advanced breast cancer by stopping the disease from growing.

Around a quarter of women with breast cancer are diagnosed with the HER2-positive form of the disease.

The drug is for women whose advanced disease has stopped responding to Herceptin.

Also known as Tyverb, the drug has received its European licence, making it available onprivatepre scription in the UK.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) will assess it later in the year before deciding if patients canget it on the NHS.

Mrs Tomlinson's husband Mike said last October his wife had found it "distressing" that she could not get easy access to lapatinib before her death in September.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust would not give the go-ahead for her to have the drug as it was not taking part in Glaxo Smith- Kline-sponsored trials of the medicine.

She had to make a 150-mile round trip to Nottinghamto receive the drug.

Leeds Teaching Hospitals calledfor a debate at the time about access to medicines that have not yet received their licence for use in the UK. More than 320 women in other parts of the UK were treated under the "expanded access" trial programme.

Pamela Goldberg, chief executive of Breast Cancer Campaign, said the announcement means around 2,000 women a year in the UK may benefit.

"It is encouraging news that Tyverb has received a conditional licence indication for metastatic breast cancer," she said.

"However, it is important to emphasise that it is not a new wonder drugsuitable for all breast cancer patients.

"Around 2,000 women in the UK with HER2 positive metastatic breast cancer who have previously followed a specific drug regime could benefit from this treatment.

"The signs are promising andwe hope that Tyverb will be developed further as a treatment in the earlier stages of breast cancer."

Dr Alexis Willett, policy manager at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: "The launch of lapatinib will give hope to those diagnosed with the more aggressive HER2-positive form of the disease when it no longer responds to H erceptin."

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