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New cancer drug likely to be 'limited' on NHS

A new drug which is designed to treat advanced kidney cancer (mRCC) and gastrointestinal stromal tumours (Gist) has been launched in the UK today (July 31st).

Pfizer announced last week that Sutent has been granted conditional marketing authorisation by the European Commission and is to be used when other drugs have failed.

The launch has been welcomed by cancer patients, with an estimated 6,600 new kidney patients and 900 Gist patients diagnosed each year in the UK.

Dr Joseph Feczko, Pfizer's chief medical officer, said: "Patients who had few choices now have a new treatment option for Gist and mRCC.

"Interim data showed that Sutent prolonged time to tumour progression in clinical study participants with resistant Gist and showed remarkable response rates and response duration across multiple studies in patients with metastatic kidney cancer."

Approximately 42 per cent of patients responded to Sutent in clinical trials, with tumours failing to progress for 8.2 months on average.

However, patients have been warned that NHS funding for the drug might not be available for some time and that it may be necessary to seek private healthcare.

Judith Robinson, a spokeswoman for the charity Gist Support UK, told the Times: "The new drug is not cheap at about £2,400 per patient per month."

In Northern Ireland, the drug is likely to be available only to those patients who have private healthcare and to those taking part in clinical trials.

Dr Seamus McAleer, consultant clinical oncologist at the Belfast City Hospital, told the Belfast Telegraph: "Unfortunately it hasn't been funded yet.

"It's currently impossible to put an exact price on the drug but it's certain to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to the health service drugs budget in Northern Ireland each year and that's a significant chunk of the overall budget," he added.

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