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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 February 2006, 11:00 GMT
Assembly cancer vigil continues
Jayne Sullivan, pictured on Saturday

A mother from Cardiff with breast cancer is continuing her protest at the Welsh assembly after spending a fourth night on a sofa in the building.

Jayne Sullivan, 45, has pledged an "indefinite" protest to end a "postcode lottery" for women like her who want to have the anti-cancer drug, Herceptin.

At present Herceptin is only licensed for use with late-stage breast cancer.

Welsh Health Minister Brian Gibbons has said he would not approve the drug in Wales because it had not been licensed.

The Welsh Assembly Government has said commissioning the drug for this purpose was up to local health boards (LHB).

Ms Sullivan, who has undergone chemotherapy for her breast cancer first diagnosed last May, began her campaign on Wednesday.

She has a supply of food and has set up a makeshift bed on a sofa in the assembly building's milling area.

Herceptin
Herceptin, aka Trastuzumab, is already used on advanced cancer

As she and her supporters arrived outside, Dr Gibbons told the assembly's health committee other drugs that had been provided without a licence were later shown to be unsafe.

Ms Sullivan, a project manager and mother-of-two teenage children, said she would continue her protest until Dr Gibbons changed his mind.

She said: "I have no choice now. I have made this commitment and I intend to see it through.

"It is a powerful drug I'm sure, but my options and the options of women like me are extremely limited and you take any chance."

She had earlier refused two invitations for a private meeting with Dr Gibbons, claiming she felt the health minister was not "well informed" about the drug.

She said she wanted Dr Gibbons to make individual decisions about allowing Herceptin, after dealing directly with a patient and her consultant oncologist.

Remission

She said: "There are very few of us - it's not opening floodgates. They should be asked, and then with that information the minister [should] make his decision."

Ms Sullivan was not allowed to receive visitors, apart from her pastor, while the assembly building was closed over the weekend.

She said on Saturday: "I realise you can't have visitors like a working day but I would have liked to have a friend to call."

"But never mind, I am totally focused on my mission."

She said she would spend the weekend "making sure that my message gets across".

At the start of her protest, Ms Sullivan was accompanied by a number of women who have cancer, including Barbara Clark, a 49-year-old from Somerset who took her fight to obtain the anti-cancer drug to the European Court of Human Rights, and who is now in remission from the disease.

Researchers in the US have recently discovered the risk of tumours recurring with certain types of breast cancer can be cut by up to 50% if Herceptin is taken in the early stages of the disease.

Ms Sullivan has joined a growing number of women across the UK who are arguing for the treatment - which costs up to 30,000 for a year - to be made available on the NHS.

Some LHBs in Wales, including Ms Sullivan's in Cardiff, have said they will fund wider use of Herceptin before it is officially licensed in the UK in March for advanced breast cancer sufferers.




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