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Medics Launch Cancer Drug Tests

Medics Launch Cancer Drug Tests. Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England), August 17, 2006

Byline: By Jane Picken

Vital research into life-extending cancer drug Alimta will be carried out with the help of 100 North East patients.

Medics at Newcastle General Hospital are due to start testing the chemotherapy drug and will select people suffering from the lung cancer mesothelioma for the project.

It is hoped they could uncover improved ways of administering the drug and ensure patients who could benefit the most are given it.

The work on Alimta, which is said to extend some sufferers' lives by three months, could also make the drug more affordable and prompt health bosses to use it widely.

Dr Albi Runi Ryan Abbul Razak, specialist registrar at Newcastle General's medical oncology department, is due to carry out the study.

He said: "We are very excited about this research project.

"It is locally funded and we will be able to see the results of the work in the local community.

"We are optimising what we consider to be the standard treatment globally and we hope we will be able to improve the quality of life for mesothelioma patients even further."

The Newcastle University team, lead by Prof Hilary Calvert, who first developed the drug, is aiming to pinpoint exactly what makes certain patients respond better to Alimta.

Ian McFall, head of the asbestos team at Thompsons Solicitors, based in Newcastle, added: "This is a huge step forward for mesothelioma victims, many of whom have developed the disease following years of hard work on the Tyne.

"This research will ensure victims are given the best possible treatment."

The team will study genetic characteristics of the patients and their tumours to find out who will benefit most from the drug.

Alimta, which is produced by drug manufacturer Eli Lilly, was cleared for use in the North East in December by the Northern Cancer Network following a Chronicle campaign with mesothelioma sufferers from the region.

Within days of launching our Give Us A Chance campaign in December, almost 2,000 people had signed petitions.

But the National Institute of Clinical Excellence, which licenses and approves drugs for use in the NHS, is not expected to approve Alimta.

Prof Andrew Stephens, who chaired the panel behind the NICE report, said the cost of treatment for each patient is around pounds 8,000.

He added there was not enough evidence to prove Alimta was better than cheaper alternatives.