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Cancer Drug U-Turn Boost

Byline: Dave Robson Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England), December 10, 2005

Terminally ill cancer patients on Teesside could get precious extra time with their loved ones after a dramatic decision to fund a potentially life-extending drug.

Patients suffering from mesothelioma have previously been denied the drug Alimta by local NHS trusts.

But a shock turnaround made by NHS trust chiefs across the North-east yesterday means sufferers could now enjoy an extension to their lives.

Colin Graves from Marske was among those thwarted in their attempts to have the treatment funded locally.

The Marske Workingmen's Club secretary contracted the condition after exposure to asbestos in the 1960s.

He went public over his dismay that Alimta wasn't being funded by Langbaurgh Primary Care Trust and was poised to take legal action in a bid to force a U-turn.

Speaking after yesterday's decision, Mr Graves, a devoted grandad-of-five, told the Gazette: "The whole family is elated. I had every intention of fighting tooth and nail to get the treatment and I am quite surprised by the decision.

"I will be speaking to my consultant about it as soon as I can. If you are offered a stay of execution who would turn it down?"

The 65-year-old was told on diagnosis in February that 50pc of mesothelioma sufferers live just 12 months. But Alimta has been shown in trials to prolong survival of mesothelioma patients by weeks and often months.

Two other Teesside patients, Bernard Hoyland from Marske and Jeff Hurrell from Norton were forced to travel to London to receive the treatment.

Northumberland and Tyne and Wear Strategic Health Authority which oversees the region's NHS Trusts confirmed patients who were considered suitable would now receive the pounds 24,000 treatment for free.

"It is important for each case to be considered individually by the consultant and patient together," said a spokeswoman.

She said provision of the drug to suitable patients will be treated as "a matter of urgency" over the next few weeks.