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Tuesday, May 19, 1998 Published at 23:02 GMT 00:02 UK

Health: Latest News

7,500 to buy an extra year of life

Ovarian cancer kills 4,000 British women a year

A new drug treatment can give women with advanced ovarian cancer an extra year of life.

A European and Canadian trial has found that women treated with a combination of the drug Taxol and platinum live at least 10 months longer than those given the traditional treatment of chemotherapy.

The study of 700 patients with advanced ovarian cancer confirms the findings of an earlier, smaller American study.

Britain, Poland and Denmark have the highest rate of ovarian cancer deaths in the world.

Around 4,000 women a year die of ovarian cancer in the UK and 6,000 are diagnosed with the disease.

Because of the position of ovarian cancer, 75% of sufferers are not diagnosed until the disease is well advanced. Only about 20% of women with ovarian cancer currently live longer than five years.

'Prescribe it now!'

Doctors say the new findings show the need to prescribe the combination therapy immediately to create a "gold standard treatment" in the treatment of ovarian cancer.

But there are fears that it could add millions to the NHS' cash-strapped drugs budget. The new treatment costs around 7,500 per patient.

Dr Hilary Thomas, senior lecturer in clinical oncology at Hammersmith Hospital, said: "We are talking about a treatment that costs about 7,500 per patient - that's the cost of a small car. The idea of thinking that 7,500 is too much to spend for an extra year of life is ridiculous."

Former nurse and MP Ann Keen is spearheading a campaign to improve access to the new treatment. Sixty-four MPs have signed a petition calling for the government to look urgently at latest evidence.

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