Page last updated at 07:42 GMT, Monday, 24 July 2006 08:42 UK

Thumbs up for breast cancer drug

Breast tumour
Thousands develop breast cancer each year

A drug to treat breast cancer in its early stages is set for approval for NHS use in England and Wales.

The draft guidance from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) could potentially benefit thousands of women.

It has recommended Taxotere as a post-surgery treatment for those who are in the early stages of disease.

A final version of the guidance is expected to be issued next month, following a consultation period.

If Taxotere is routinely available in the UK it has the potential to prevent the deaths of hundreds of women with breast cancer each year
Dr David Miles

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK - almost 42,000 women are diagnosed with the disease every year and one in nine women will develop it at some point in their lives.

However, survival rates for women with breast cancer have improved significantly over the last decade.

Almost two thirds of women now diagnosed with breast cancer are likely to survive for at least 20 years.

Impressive results

Taxotere, which is derived from yew trees, was approved for use in Scotland by the Scottish Medicines Consortium - the equivalent of Nice - last October.

A five-year international study found a 30% reduction in the risk of death from breast cancer in patients treated with the drug.

Researchers also found a 28% reduction in risk of the disease coming back in sufferers.

Nearly nine out of 10 women treated with the drug, which is also known as docetaxel, were alive after five years, the study found.

And at the end of nearly five years, 75% of women were disease free, compared to 68% on the standard therapy.

Manufacturers Sanofi-aventis said Taxotere could save an extra six lives for every 100 patients treated.

The drug increased overall survival, disease-free survival and quality of life for women with early node-positive breast cancer, where cancerous cells had spread to the lymph nodes, a spokesman said.

Dr David Miles, consultant oncologist at London Bridge Hospital, said: "If Taxotere is routinely available in the UK it has the potential to prevent the deaths of hundreds of women with breast cancer each year."

He said Nice's guidance was "an important step forward for the treatment of early stage breast cancer in the UK".

Dr Sarah Rawlings, head of policy and information at cancer charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, also welcomed Nice's guidance.

She said: "The approval of docetaxel will result in greater chemotherapy choice for patients with early breast cancer, something which women tell us is very important.

"This decision also brings England and Wales into line with Scotland which has already recommended this drug."



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