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Cancer pill trialled in the North-East gets the green light
A NORTH-EAST specialist who helped test a new pill to tackle a previously untreatable form of head and neck cancer has welcomed news that it is licensed and available on the NHS from today (Monday, August ).
The Northern Centre for Cancer Care at Newcastles Freeman Hospital, which treats patients from the Scottish Border down to North Yorkshire, was one of a handful of centres to trial Erivedge, a new pill developed to treat the often disfiguring condition known as advanced basal cell carcinoma.
Professor Ruth Plummer, a consultant medical oncologist at the Freeman Hospital, said it was "fantastic" news that this small group of patients, who were not suitable for surgery or radiotherapy, could now be treated.
While it did not work in every case the majority of 10 patients on clinical trials at Newcastle saw what Prof Plummer described as "dramatic" improvements to their appearance, with the disfiguring growth being replaced by normal skin after several months.
Basal cell carcinoma, or BCC, is the most common form of skin cancer in the UK and is often found on the head and neck.
While it is slow-growing and rarely fatal, if it is left to grow it may become unsuitable for standard treatment such as surgery or radiotherapy.
Prof Plummer said she was "delighted" that this new treatment is now available to patients across England and that specialists can now offer a new non-surgical treatment with this condition, which affects up to 700 people a year in the UK.
Prof Plummer said she had already applied to the Governments Cancer Drug Fund and would be able to prescribe it from today.
"It is great to have another option for people who couldnt have surgery or radiotherapy and were stuck with these growths," she added.
Erivedge, which is also known by its scientific name of vismodegib, has been developed by the drug company Roche.
It works by blocking an abnormal cell signalling pathway which is responsible for tumour development in most BCC cases.
Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said the charity was "proud to have played a key role in the early development of this drug" and was delighted it has been approved for use.
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