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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 September 2007, 08:47 GMT 09:47 UK
Cancer patients offered free drug
Bottle of tablets
The drug can slow down tumour growth
A number of cancer patients denied a new drug by the NHS may get free treatment as part of a clinical trial taking place in Manchester.

The drug Sutent can in some cases prolong the lives of patients with kidney cancer.

The company, Oxford BioMedica, is funding the supply of the drug, at Christie hospital in Manchester.

In return patients must agree to be involved in a trial of the firm's drug TroVax to see how it works with Sutent.

The study will test if TroVax adds further benefit and help patients survive longer.

We would say Sutent is probably the drug for most patients with kidney cancer
Professor Bob Hawkins, Christie hospital

Professor Bob Hawkins from Christie hospital said: "We would like [Sutent] to be available for every patient.

"We would still encourage patients to go into the trials of new treatments because that's the only way we're going to make progress on drugs like Sutent.

"We would say Sutent is probably the drug for most patients with kidney cancer. It isn't by any means perfect and we'd like to improve on it."

Sutent and TroVax are not cures for kidney cancer, which is an aggressive and fatal disease, but it can slow down tumour growth, and help patients to live longer.

Anthony Wilson
Friends of Tony Wilson offered to pay for his treatment

Patients taking part will have to meet certain enrolment criteria for the trial and should not have had any treatment for their cancer other than surgery and radiotherapy.

Sutent was licensed for treatment of advanced kidney cancer in the UK by regulators a year ago, and is used as a standard therapy in many countries including the USA, France, Germany and Spain.

However, it has not been approved by UK drugs watchdog body NICE, but a small number of Primary Care Trusts are funding it at a cost of about 3,000 a month.

Nick Woolf, a spokesman for Oxford BioMedica said: "We now have four centres open for recruitment in the UK, Leeds, Manchester, Middlesbrough and Middlesex, and another four are likely to open in the next few weeks.

"We hope that by making Sutent available to patients as part of the trial this will help to accelerate recruitment in the UK."

Treatment privately

The firm aims to recruit around 70 patients from 14 centres across the UK.

Several cancer patients in the UK have decided to pay for their treatment privately, including Tony Wilson, co-founder of Factory Records in Manchester, who died recently.

His friends offered to pay for the treatment after he was refused Sutent on the NHS.

Almost 6,700 people are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year in the UK which causes around 3,600 deaths each year nationally.

Professor Bob Hawkins explains the trial

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